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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and poignant, a great story and well told
A fabulous atmospheric fantasy novel by one of the recognised modern masters of the genre. 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' is a brilliantly written story - gripping from the first pages, with interesting characters and a narrator you can root for, and a gloriously dark edge underlying it. The narrator is a middle aged man who revisits his childhood home and remembers...
Published 7 months ago by BookWorm

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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Eerie, dark and enjoyable, but not a book for everyone
In much the same style as he did with Coraline, the master of really imaginative and surreal fantasy returns with the Ocean at the end of the lane.

Once more we are launched into a dark and quite disturbing world in this tale about the adventures of a young boy when he was just seven years old. In much the same manner of Corlaine this book felt quite disturbing...
Published 18 months ago by GOTTON


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and poignant, a great story and well told, 4 Aug. 2014
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
A fabulous atmospheric fantasy novel by one of the recognised modern masters of the genre. 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' is a brilliantly written story - gripping from the first pages, with interesting characters and a narrator you can root for, and a gloriously dark edge underlying it. The narrator is a middle aged man who revisits his childhood home and remembers an extraordinary series of events that happened when he was aged seven. The book evokes the feelings of childhood perfectly, particularly the fear and helplessness, but without running into problems with the narrative voice by having the narrator an adult looking back.

It is a 'plot driven' novel where plenty happens and it is often exciting and hard to put down. But there is a strong emotional undercurrent, and many genuinely poignant moments. It's very well balanced and manages to tug at your heart strings without actually appearing to do so, as you're so caught up in the drama.

Even readers who don't usually go for 'fantasy' books would likely enjoy this - it's accessibly written, and its themes of loss of innocence and taking on responsibility are universal. It's also a thumping good yarn that is hard to put down. The length is short - under 150 pages, and the pacing perfect. Gaiman is good at building up suspense and the middle section in particular had me jumping at shadows. There's a creepy, unsettling feeling that is created, and the ending is moving.

Although it's a book about a child and childhood, it wouldn't be suitable for young children. However I think teenagers from around 12 upwards would appreciate it and enjoy it. There are some mild sexual references and it's a bit scary, but no more so than many other books for this age group. Fans of Terry Practchett's novels for younger readers would almost certainly like this, and readers who enjoyed this but haven't tried Pratchett should add 'The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents' and 'The Wee Free Men' to their reading lists.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't sing it's praises enough, 24 Dec. 2013
By 
Kitandler (Good Ol' Blighty) - See all my reviews
I love Neil Gaimen. So I expected no less than to love this book but any long term fan knows an author can have a dud.

This is not that book.

This is where Gaimen thrives- lulls you into a feeling of an average story of adults reminiscing about childhoods and then, easy as you like, it becomes a fantastical tale of a boy and a girl (who's been 11 for a long time) and their attempts to save his family from a being that crossed over from the place with an orange sky to Our World, where it doesn't belong.

I won't say anymore for fear of ruining the suspense and skill of Gaimen pulling you into this brilliantly-crafted story.

Highly recommend (if you can't tell).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's Something Incredible at the End of the Lane..., 17 Oct. 2014
By 
Valerie L. Pate (East Yorkshire, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Neil Gaiman is such a remarkable author. One of my all time favorites. I have always marvelled at how well he can interweave fantasy and reality. You don’t seem to lose that familiar grounding of the world we know, even as you are delving into the mysteries of otherwordliness that creep up on you from the pages of his award winning novels.

Although this theme of reality spilling into the unknown (or vice versa) is one of Gaiman’s familiar formulas, there is something so very different and unexpected about this latest tale. We enter into the reveries of a middle-aged man who has returned to his hometown for a funeral. The childhood recollections, told in a very believeable first-person narrative, seem wholly commonplace and plausible. The exact sort of memories that Gaiman himself might have; and indeed he has revealed that he drew heavily upon personal experiences when writing this book. Somewhere along the way, however, the reader is almost imperceptibly drawn into a world of supernatural wonderment. There are dangers so completely evil that the seven year old protagonist should be hiding away beneath the blankets; yet children are always more accepting of the unexplainable, and so he finds himself caught in a thick web of mystical wickedness. By his side, however, is a girl as wholesome as the fresh milk she serves him from her farm; but also as brave as any mythic hero and as sagely as the dawn of time.

It is a journey that you will not forget easily. It is childhood lost and fairytales rekindled. It is one of a kind, and only Gaiman could have crafted such a complexly enchanting tale.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different moon, 5 Jan. 2015
This is the first Neil Gaiman book I have read and I was looking forward to it immensely. Glancing through other reviews I could see that others felt it isn’t his best book. Though plenty didn’t agree. However, having nothing to compare it to I felt I was lucky as I couldn’t be disappointed. But I was. A little. At first.

It was the title that drew me to this book. The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Possibly sparked by something I had misheard on the radio, my imagination conjured up magical images. The lane was a short lane leading from a suburban street of unremarkable, respectable houses. And the ocean was a real ocean. Vast. Unexpected. Just a few steps from this rather boring road. So eager had I been to start the book that I missed the page just before the Prologue. So my imagined faery scene remained intact.

I read the first few pages with happy anticipation. I somehow glossed over the fact that the setting was rural, not suburban. I think I too became seven again. “I walked into the farmyard. I went past the chicken coop, past the old barn and along the edge of the field …’ I too picked a handful of green nuts and put them in my pocket. Then I turned the corner and found the pond.

Not an ocean. Not vast. Not unexpected. Just a pond in a farmyard. Not magical at all. A pond that a small girl had called an ocean. At that stage I felt that this was going to be a different book from the one I had expected. That was when I felt the twinge of disappointment. Nevertheless, I was already appreciating the quality of the writing. Neil Gaiman’s ability to create a scene in just a few words. “I wore a black suit and a white shirt, a black tie and black shoes, all polished and shiny … I was wearing the right clothes for a hard day.” So I read on.

Then, “Nobody came to my seventh birthday party.” I was hooked. It’s fair to say that I gobbled this book up. I raced through it. I am now reading books with a pencil and notebook on the bed beside me, but I hadn’t started to do that at that point. So I am having to go back to it to remind myself of the details. And there’s so much detail. So many images. The birthday cake that has a book drawn on it and tells so much about this small boy. The tiny little yellow washbasin in the bedroom “at the top of the stairs”. The white mini stuck on the verge, the green toothbrush with toilet paper wrapped round the top.

Image piles on image. Weird images, scary images. The nightmare that isn’t. The terrifying, shudderingly sinister worm – this is perhaps the thing that scared me most but I can’t say more without spoiling it. The everyday world where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted, not even your parents. I was no longer disappointed. I was and am enthralled. Nevertheless, I’m finding it hard to review this book. I don’t want to stick labels on it. There’s a real world. That pleases me. There’s a fantastical, otherworldly world of monsters and orange skies and a sinister, shape shifting babysitter. That delights me. (Ursula Monkton. What a splendid perfect name, both normal and menacing).

At least one reviewer has said that this book is childhood. It is. It’s that strange and wonderful world that only a child can imagine. A child or someone who is still a child in spirit. Someone who in some part of them has not really ever grown up. Who can journey back to that enchanted place where there’s a different moon on the other side of the house, where the past can be snipped away with a pair of scissors, where people live in the present and the past simultaneously. Where there are no limits to dreams and imaginings. Where children can ‘creep beneath the rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.” And in the spaces between the fences lies a world of horror where a dead man walks “in a frilly white shirt and a black bow tie”, where the hunger birds have sharp beaks and faceless flapping things loom menacingly.

As I write I’m increasingly conscious of the fact that no review of mine can do justice to this bewitching, charming, spellbinding story. You just have to read it. “I love my ocean,” says Lettie Hemstock. And I love it too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Dark Fairytale, 28 Dec. 2014
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a short, sweet fable of lost innocence, told with Neil Gaiman's characteristic flair for weaving the wondrous into the mundane. Our unnamed protagonist revisits his childhood home in what amounts to a prologue; before relating the tale of his seven year-old self's brush with otherworldly evil.

In its content, Ocean is a fairy tale; a simple narrative about monsters and fairy godmothers, the Brothers Grimm abroad in 1970's England. In its form, however, Ocean is delightfully complex.This is a richly-textured exploration of the wonder and fear which suffuses our childhood experiences, and the painful realisation that our parents are but frail humans. As in Gaiman's previous works, his broad-brush fantasies prove, on closer inspection, to be complex and nuanced. His is a world where, yes, good must fight evil, and ultimately triumph; but the monsters are alien rather than malign; his characters conflicted, and for every triumph a price must be paid. Indeed, in Ocean's stunning epilogue, the true cost of the protagonist's brush with the Hempstocks and the hunger birds is laid painfully bare; a poignant twist to cap a satisfying tale.

At just over 140 pages, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is perhaps a little too short and narrow in its scope to be a low fantasy classic. It punches above its weight, however, and will resonate with young adult and adult readers alike. It is perhaps too dark, with some grotesque as well as sexual imagery, to be suitable for children. For readers new to Gaiman's works, Ocean is a delightful aperitif; readers who enjoy it would do well to tackle Stardust and American Gods thereafter. Established fans may find it familiar, but enchanting nevertheless. And when a writer's canon is of as high as caliber as Gaiman's, who could complain about more of the same?
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Eerie, dark and enjoyable, but not a book for everyone, 27 Sept. 2013
This review is from: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Hardcover)
In much the same style as he did with Coraline, the master of really imaginative and surreal fantasy returns with the Ocean at the end of the lane.

Once more we are launched into a dark and quite disturbing world in this tale about the adventures of a young boy when he was just seven years old. In much the same manner of Corlaine this book felt quite disturbing and I think that is because it seems to be written as though it is a children's book but the themes are far too adult and dark for me to be gifting this book to my nieces and nephew any time soon. The juxtaposition between the feel of a children's book and the almost horror style of dark fantasy that Gaiman creates just serves to brilliantly heighten the tension in the novel and the frankly skin crawling atmosphere is really quite powerful.

With the usual style of vivid images and surreal situations this book is just as imaginative as previous novels by this author and was also enjoyable.

However, this isn't a book for everyone and unfortunately it was not quite my cup of tea. Rather than this being because of the author doing something wrong it is more a case of something that he simply didn't do. I felt as though the story lacked any real substance in this novel. Whilst it is an interesting little tale it lacked the depth beyond the event itself and I didn't really get any sense of history behind the story. It simply felt like a story that popped up out of nowhere and disappeared again and had no real importance other than to the characters directly involved. Therefore this book lacked the intensity that I normally like to sink my teeth into.

As I said though this isn't a bad thing, it just isn't for me.

Overall I think that this is a good novel and will certainly appeal to a lot of people. However, when compared to earlier works such as Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, American Gods and even the Graveyard Book which was aimed at a much younger audience, this book didn't quite rise to the occasion for me. Still it is worth a read and I would recommend it to Neil Gaiman fans.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true work of genius, 3 Jan. 2015
My second journey into the magically enchanting world created by Neil Gaiman, my first was Neverwhere and I have been itching to delve back in ever since.

This time the story follows the recollections of a middle aged man returning to his former home that he, his sister and parents occupied before it was demolished. Something that remains of that past is the small ramshackle cottage situated at the bottom of the lane where our protagonist made friends, at the age of 7, with an 11 year old girl called Lettie Hempstock. Delving into these memories our narrator recollects events unbelievable, haunting and truly magical.

Written from the perspective of a 7 year old boy, one who loves to read and doesn’t fully understand the actions of adults, Gaiman captures the innocence and naivety perfectly and this coupled with some of the experiences makes it hard for the reader not to feel a sense of nostalgia when reading this novel. Gaiman’s enchanting way with words and his whimsical style tell a story that turns the mundane fascinating and the magical all the more memorising and wonderful.

This is a story of one boys revelation that the world where everything is ordinary exists alongside one with an orange sky, filled with monsters and magic and otherworldly beings. The boy is pulled into this world after the suicide of an opal miner who was a lodger at his home. The suicide awakens a being that exhibits powers to manipulate adults through the use of money. It is during this time that the young boy meets Lettie Hempstock, her mother and Grandmother. He is told that the Grandmother witnessed the moon being made and Lettie is adamant that the pond next to her home is actually an ocean, and it becomes quite clear that this family is not what its seems but is friendly and comforting.

One menacing being is able to integrate itself into the family home and using its powers is able to turn his whole family against him and causes his father to do a terrifyingly violent act. The story is also a portrayal of the role of adults in a child’s life and how they are seen, and the sudden realisation that the adults themselves fear things and have their own insecurities and are not much different from their child-selves, beautifully put by Lettie;

“I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”

This is one tale that will stay with me for a while, enchanting and frightening, touching and nostalgic. A story of friendship, childhood experiences, memories, folklore and unimaginable things that live just outside of our own world, waiting for a way to escape and wreak havoc by unleashing the monsters within ourselves. A true work of genius by Gaiman and added to my favourite novel list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written - but short and a little underwhelming, 5 May 2014
This is Neil Gaiman we're talking about, so The Ocean at the End of the Lane is well-written, with his characteristic lyrical prose and very original imagery. He also weaves in folklore, as he often does, but this time he includes much less well-known characters such as the gaelic Scathach (and I see this was written on Skye - clearly his inspiration in this case!) as well as mother/maiden/crone stuff.

It is, however, a very simple, short tale, despite the weaving at the front and back ends of half-remembered memory. There are no side plots or secondary characters with interesting tales. It's a bit like a long short story; the novel itself is just 236pp long, with 18pp of commentary and acknowledgements, and 5pp of newspaper/magazine reviews of the novel.

In many ways, it seems like a children's book, but it is probably not suitable for younger children - certainly sensitive or more conservative types - because of one short graphic sexual reference, a suicide (albeit it's a fairly incidental character you have not bonded with), and one's views on what happens near the end (to spell out more would be a spoiler).

Unfortunately when you reach for a novel that has been so heavily reviewed in the media (and they're listed in the book and on this page, so the publisher intends us to take them into account), you have horribly high expectations and it's hard not to expect what the reviews have told you to expect - and if you buy from Amazon, those reviews are critical to making the purchase. In this case, the media reviews often say or imply that the novel has profound views on the nature of childhood and memory. Now, I'm not saying that the book doesn't touch on these issues, but it's no more profound than a number of books in the fantasy genre that don't benefit from such universal reviews.

So, all in all: it's a pretty decent, well-written, short read (I read it in a few hours) and probably great for, say, a train ride or plane trip. But it's not ground-breaking fantasy, and it's awfully short.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ocean and the hidden ways, 24 Feb. 2014
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Hardcover)
The Hempstock farm is a special place -- a pond is an ocean, monstrous things lurk in the forests, and an old lady may have lived longer than the world.

Welcome to "The Ocean at the End of the Lane," an exquisite short novel that shows anew why Neil Gaiman is one of the best authors alive. Part fantasy, part horror and part coming-of-age tale, this bewitching story is made even more beautiful because of Gaiman's clever use of magic, mystery and a villain who would seem silly in any other story.

As a child, the protagonist was shy, bookish and didn't really have any friends... until he met Lettie Hempstock. She was a strange girl living with her ancient grandmother and mother, who claims to have an ocean on her family farm -- and when she takes him exploring in the woods on her property, they encounter strange and sometimes dangerous creatures.

Unfortunately, one of those is a monstrous ancient being made of canvas and rotted wood, which follows him home. And once she takes the form of a human woman, she begins to torment the young boy and tear apart his family. His only hope may be Lettie and the Hempstock women -- but the solution for the monster may be even worse.

One of the best aspects of Neil Gaiman's storytelling is that he never shows you everything. There are glimpses of other worlds, ancient creatures, strange magic, but he never kills the magic by overexplaining. There is just enough magic, horror and timeless mystery to stoke your imagination, but not enough to bog down the story.

A lot of that comes from the Hempstocks, whose true natures and powers are never truly outlined -- all we know is that they are ancient and powerful, particularly the grandmother. And their farm -- including the mysterious "ocean" -- is a place of magic that both enthralls and terrifies. Gaiman's prose is exquisite ("The silk filled with candle flames moved then, a slow, graceful, under-the-water sort of a movement") and sharply descriptive.

He also has a rare gift for getting into the mind of a child -- the unnamed protagonist is young enough to still accept the strange and weird, but old enough to realize the enormity of what is happening. He also grows up as the story proceeds, learning to defy the cruelty of the adults around him (like his emotionally-abusive father) and gaining the courage to fight the canvas-creature.

And despite their weirdness, the Hempstocks are pretty fun characters too, especially the doughty grandmother who may be older than the universe. Lettie is a particularly intriguing character, both an ancient power and a sprightly little girl, as opposed to the rotten, malevolent Ursula.

"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is a magical book in every way -- a coming-of-age tale about horror, enchantment and a farm that is not what it seems. The best book (so far) of 2013.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories on growing up., 16 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Hardcover)
These days, the refresh cycle of pop-culture is short. Very short compared to even ten years ago. Authors, bands, artists, journal articles and even the relatively new websites rise and fall with a speed hitherto unforeseen. This causes a number of difficulties for lovers of the above mentioned categories, although it is by no means an exhaustive list. For one, the possibilities one has to bestow his affections on a deserving artist are now almost infinite to the extent that it can be a full time job to find and treasure all the great material there is that it to your taste. Secondly, that special feeling that you can have with an artist’s work, that idea of being the only one who knows of it, which makes it intimate, private and especially joyous, lasts no longer for a couple of years, it lasts mere days.
Every time a new Neil Gaiman book comes to market, I am confronted with this dichotomy. I have loved Gaiman’s work a long time and, living in the Netherlands, it has seem for a while as if I and some of my closest friends, belonged to a special group. However, the author with an army of followers on Twitter to the extent that the term #neiltwitterfail is well known as a concept (Gaiman posts the link of a website, the amount of traffic generated by this event brings down the server) on the internet. Coinciding with the rise of Hipster Culture, it would be easy to say that I knew him before he was hip and pretend I would no longer be interested in his work. The mainstream has caught up and as a result, quality and uniqueness are no longer existent.
I would be lying. I am tempted to say that I am hardly a fanboy, however the moment my Amazon account tells me I can pre-order, I do so. Although I am becoming a bit more selective, this actually only means that I will pick up his children’s books in paperback instead of hardcover like I do with the work aimed at adults. Which is what I did with the Ocean at the End of the Lane.
“Aimed at adults” is probably one of the worst cases of mistaken nomenclature that I could have made. Gaiman, as a number of my favourite authors do, seems to forego the idea that things are unsuitable for kids or that people ever grow up. This is clear from works such as Anansi Boys, which would certainly be suitable for any 12 year old and cause him to laugh out loud on many a occassion, or The Graveyard Book which is a ‚children’s book’ that will give most adults goosebumps. OatEotL is however an even greater tour-de-force. Bridging genre’s is one thing. Bridging a generation, is quite another.
OatEotL is about a man that revisits his youth when he visits the town where he grew up. A fairytale that has all the telltale signs of a Neil Gaiman story unfolds. There is a villainess that is both morally ambiguous, but also acts as a mirror for the weaknesses in everyone. There is a distinct Gothic splendour. The mixing of old folklore with Gaiman’s own gift for creation. When I started reading the book, there was a moment where I thought that a lot of older material was being reworked.
It is difficult to point to the moment where this shifted for me and I became enraptured, especially without giving too much away of the plot. What I can say that this is one of the first books I’ve read that captures and describes so completely the sensations that probably everyone has during their youth when it comes to their family and how they interact with the world. The protagonist relives his youth and is his interactions with especially his father, the genuine fear of a child of being misunderstood and the chance of being punished because of it is visceral. As he fights against the villain of the story, he stands alone in his family. He is helped by three ladies that live down his lane, who quickly become his shelter against the loneliness his finds at home. Gaiman describes this solitude insidiously. Whilst reading the story, the reader is focused on the epic magic struggle that takes place. As a result he is caught unaware, with great effect, when the alienation, loneliness and helplessness strike home.
This in itself would have made it a good book, however the best features of the book are the small moments when the protagonist wakes from his memories of childhood and reflects on his own life. The realisation that as a child, you think grownups have all the answers. Maybe even more importantly, the hope that when you are their age, you will have all the knowledge you need in life as well. The moments in your life when you are confronted by the fact that you have no idea what you are really doing, or how you got where you are now in life, even though you are an adult are the some of the most difficult to deal with. Gaiman uses his protagonist’s youth and his constant realisation that things were different in reality than how he remembers them as a great metaphor for this process. We never really grow up even though we learn and gain experience, how we remember things on how we dealt with those moments when we are most vulnerable, is a coping mechanism.
When you read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman peels of the layers you have wrapped around your own memories and experiences to soften their harsh reality. Although at first glance a modern fairytale, it is actually a confrontation with yourself. Like every good fairytale should be. It left me hurt and emotional when I finished. I felt damaged. We all are. The fact that a book makes a reader realise that fact, is an amazing feat.
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Hardcover - 18 Jun. 2013)
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