The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Just finished reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman which I loved, enough that it gave me goose pimples and tears in my eyes!

This is only a short story, like a snippet of memory from childhood when you think everything is possible and anything can pretty much be something else.  The underneath of your kitchen table is a fort, the tree at the bottom of the garden is Nottingham Forest and the pond in the farmyard at the bottom of the lane is an ocean.  What I loved about this story is it makes you think back.  There’s always one perfect summer from your past, you can recall being on holiday, sitting on the beach eating sandwiches and sausage rolls, everything tasting a little as though it had been seasoned with sand grains, and you still believed in the impossible.  You wanted to explore that rock pool and you believed the caves to your back might have ghosts, smugglers from the past or maybe something more sinister.  This is what this story captures for me and perhaps that’s why I still love to read books like this because it keeps that small grain of something special alive inside.  As you grow older you forget the stories you created and lived in, those weren’t fairies at the bottom of the garden and of course you can’t really do magic!  Not to mention the world seemed so much bigger – when you revisit the places you used to live and play they’re not the same as you remember somehow.  That field is just a field – it’s not the size of a continent any more. This story reawakens some of those memories – or at least it did for me.

The tale is told in a flashback.  A man revisiting memories from his past.  We jump back a number of years to a young boy who lives in one of those ramshackle houses that no longer seem to exist.  Bits added on and no particular order.  This young boy lives in a world of books and imagination, which makes him into something of an oddity and probably not the most popular boy at school – a fact that is revealed by the absence of attendees at his seventh birthday party.  But he’s happy, he has his books and his kitten for company, until a lodger comes to stay and starts a string of events that turn things upside down for a while.

What I love about this book is that whilst it’s fairly short the author’s use of words bring the world to life for me.  I can picture the house and the countryside, the farm and even the pond.  Granted my imagination might convey something completely different from the next reader but I think that’s part of the magic of this story.  It will be unique for each reader.  I really enjoyed seeing the world through a 7 year old’s eyes.  Gaiman has managed to reach back and give this a child’s perspective.  When you read you can see the truth behind what is really taking place but only momentarily before the world shimmers and you’re back inside the fantasy again.

At times quite sinister, certainly the varmints turn into something very creepy not to mention Ursula Monkton – the nanny from hell!  The whole scene where the young boy is unable to get beyond the confines of his home and garden, like he’s trapped – is it just that Ursula is a regular nanny, protecting him and keeping him from trouble or is she keeping him trapped and exactly how does she manage to be everywhere at once!  She really has got eyes in the back of her head.

Evocative of lots of things all rolled into one and playing on superstition, folklore and myth the tale is beautifully told.

I’m not going to elaborate further.  All I can say is that I loved this and hopefully that comes across here.  And, I don’t think this is just some ‘Neil-Gaiman-can’t-do-anything-wrong-hero-worship’ type of review because frankly I don’t ‘love’ everything that he’s written.  Personally though I enjoyed this as much as The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere and it will be one of those books that I will pick up again and again.  I think that if you want a little flashback, to be taken back to an age when things held magic then you should give this a go.  Who knows what will happen…

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20 Responses to “The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman”

  1. Tanya

    As always, I really can’t wait till I pick this this one up and we can talk about it. 🙂

    “What I love about this book is that whilst it’s fairly short the author’s use of words bring the world to life for me. ”

    This man. This man and his words. Oof.

  2. TBM

    I need to get a copy of this!

  3. Michael

    After reading this, I realize that I have to totally re-order my TBR list and get to this one immediately!

    • lynnsbooks

      Absolutely – move this to the top. It’s really good, I loved it. (In fairness I am a Gaiman fan but if you like Neverwhere or the Graveyard Book then I think you’ll love this).
      Lynn 😀

  4. Carol

    Everyone’s loving this that it’s making me worried about reading it. I don’t want to be the one who doesn’t get it. Right now it’s sitting on my shelf waiting.

    • lynnsbooks

      Haha, course you’ll get it. You love fairy tales and this one is so good – I’d seen that you had a copy ages ago – move it on up to the top! I think you’ll like it. I know you’re not keen on the Valente books but you like Gaiman right? And, if you like the Graveyard Book I think this will hit the same spot.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Damyanti

    We can all do with a touch of magic and faith in our lives.

  6. deslily

    hmmm well I am not a Gaiman fan either but did like the Graveyard book.. you pretty much sold me on this… so grows my tbr pile!

    • lynnsbooks

      I thought it was really good. It’s a very quick read to be honest and has a lovely whimsical feel although it gets a little bit dark. I was thinking of you on my latest read – Stormdancer. It has a Griffin in it which is just excellent to read about.
      Lynn 😀

  7. deslily

    Have I mentioned I “already” have 132 books in my tbr pile???! heh.. but I will look into stormdance.. and I did add the Gaiman book to my wish list for now *sigh*

    • lynnsbooks

      I actually did see your never-ending tbr! Very impressive. Did you change your blog?
      Lynn 😀

  8. Sangita

    I have been planning to read gaiman since long..this looks loke a perfect start..

    • lynnsbooks

      I do love Gaiman – although I don’t think I let that sway how I felt about this book. I really enjoyed it.
      Lynn 😀

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