12 August 2013

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Published: 18 June 2013 by Headline Review (UK Edition)

Pages: 248 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Fantasy

Source: Own library


THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac - as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark, from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman. 

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. 

His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

My Thoughts

I've been looking forward to Neil Gaiman's new book for a while.  I really enjoyed The Graveyard Book on audio, and I was looking forward to seeing how Gaiman writes to a more adult audience.  I'd debated whether to try The Ocean at the End of the Lane in audio first, but eventually decided I wanted to see how it would read on paper.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is essentially a reflection on an event in the childhood of a middle-aged man, and that is pretty much the way that it becomes an 'adult' book rather than a children's book - it shows in the language particularly, as there is none of the childish enthusiasm in the writing if it had been 'live' events told through the eyes of the narrator as they happened.

The fantastical element actually felt rather restrained to me - and that's also a comparison that I could make to The Graveyard Book - Gaiman weaves fantasy with realism so well that a lot of what happens in The Ocean At the End of the Lane has a dreamlike quality, rather than intense fantasy, and that's the kind of fantasy I like.  For example, the family has NO idea what is actually happening to their son as they seem to be shielded from the events that are occuring even in their own home.

A very quick read, I enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane quite a lot, although I didn't find myself cheering for the main character as much as I would have liked - granted it's hard to connect with a nine-year-old-boy when you are a woman in your thirties, but I had expected to feel more protective and concerned than I actually did.  I also had trouble discerning between the two older women at times - in part because of their names, but also because they didn't have the individual presence to distinguish themselves.

I haven't read enough of Neil Gaiman to say how this book rates in relation to his earlier work, but I would actually recommend this one on audio - but only if it's narrated by Neil Gaiman himself (wink, wink).
P.S.  I will never look at worms the same way again.


  1. I was planning to soon start The Graveyard Book since that is the only one I have and I heard that Neil Gaiman is an amazing author, but I think I am more tempted to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane now. Thank you for the review.

    Amina Black (aminablack.com)

  2. The only Gaiman I've read have been Stardust & Coraline and loved them. Will be reading this for sure!

  3. Neil Gaiman is totally best on audio. His voice is amazing. This one really read more like a middle grade than an adult novel for me. Did you get that feeling too?

  4. I have yet to delve into any Gaiman...although I had The Graveyard Book on my shelf for 1.5 years...I really need to give it a go..maybe this Oct.

  5. So the only other Gaiman book I've ever read was American Gods, which I loved, but I've heard amazing things about The Graveyard Book as well as this one.

    I think what I love about his writing is the fact that he makes fantasy and reality blend so effortlessly. Like you said, many of his books have a very "dream-like" feel to them. And I've always kind of felt like his books were meant for adults though they can be read and enjoyed by children, which is utterly brilliant. I'm always on the lookout for new audiobooks and am eager to see how Gaiman does with narrating! I'll have to check this one out, for sure.

  6. I've only read Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, I really enjoyed his odd writing style but I'm super curious about his other books. I kind of like the 'dream-like' quality in books on occasion, so I'll have to remember this one the next time I'm searching for one of his books. Great review!



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