The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 28, 2016 (Mass Market Paperback Release)
About the Author
Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane Synopsis
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
Once upon a time, fairy tales were more than fodder for Disney movies. They were legends that served as instruction and entertainment for people of all ages. Happily, Neil Gaiman still believes in the fairy tale. In his book The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman weaves a contemporary fairy tale full of magic, adventure, and brave young heroes. Suitable for all ages (mostly), Ocean serves as a testament to the power of friendship and a reminder of how grand and horrific the world seems when we are children.
Told through the eyes of a middle-aged gentleman reflecting on his childhood, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a journey of self-identity. Of course, no journey is worth taking if it isn’t enjoyable. Gaiman has provided readers with a colorful cast of characters that range from magical and mysterious to sinister and scary. The story itself is simple and somewhat familiar as fairy tales should be. This does not mean the story isn’t excellent; it is. Rather, reading Ocean is like wrapping oneself in a blanket on a cold winter’s day: comforting and ever enjoyable.
Like most good fairy tales, The Ocean at the End of the Lane seeks to answer the great questions of life: Who am I? How did I get here? Where am I going? Our narrator wants to understand what has made him the man he is and why he feels the way he does. More than this, Ocean reminds readers how differently the world looks at a young age. Everything is simpler and more innocent; the worst monsters are those closest to home. Gaiman seems to urge readers to examine their own lives and to re-discover the wonder and horror that is being a kid.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of The Ocean at the End of the Lane is its commentary on sacrifice. When one thinks of sacrifice, the cost to the person doing the sacrificing is generally the focus. However, what about the heavy burden placed on the one sacrificed for? How does one live up to such an act? How can one ever be worthy of it? Could the world have been better if the sacrifice had never been made? While Ocean doesn’t necessarily provide answers to these questions, provoking the reader to consider them at all is refreshing.
Though The Ocean at the End of the Lane can be enjoyed by all that does not mean it is appropriate for all. There are a few details that may be too frightening for youngsters. More questionable is the book’s sexual content. At one point, the narrator describes a man “hugging” a woman from behind. Though told from a child’s understanding, the reader understands that sexual intercourse is taking place. Later in the book, the same woman is described as lying naked on her bed (no sexual activity is taking place). Though none of the content is explicit, parents should read ahead before allowing children under 13 to read it for themselves.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane serves as a wonderful introduction to the writing of Neil Gaiman while also giving veterans plenty to love as well. Light-yet-complex and relatively short, it is the perfect summer read. Everyone should take a trip to this Ocean.
Purchase The Ocean at the End of the Lane
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