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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't sing it's praises enough
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...
Published 8 months ago by Kitandler

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17 of 18 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 11 months ago by GOTTON


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Eerie, dark and enjoyable, but not a book for everyone, 27 Sep 2013
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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17 of 18 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but slight and underwhelming, 6 May 2014
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Paperback)
A middle-aged man returns to his home for a funeral, only to be drawn back into the long-forgotten events of his childhood, when he travelled through an ocean, visited another world and brought back something that did not want to leave.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman's first novel for adults for eight years. It started off as a novella and grew larger than he first intended, though at 250 pages it's still on the short side for a novel. This is a book that touches on a number of themes, such as nostalgia, memory (and how it is mutable) and how a child's perception differs from that of an adult's. The book also ties in with some of Gaiman's other work, bringing in the Hempstock family from Stardust and The Graveyard Book. This is a novel that operates primarily as a mood piece, evoking the feeling of a childhood idyll and then darkening it with a nightmarish intrusion from another place. It's a classic trope, taking the idea of childhood as a sacrosanct time of warmth, fun and protection and then violating it with a force of darkness and evil.

That said, it's a story that Gaiman seems to shy away from exploring fully. Our unnamed protagonist has a rather capable of group of allies in the form of the Hempstock family, who know everything that's going on and have a solution for every problem that arises. It's difficult to build tension when your main character has a group of powerful magic-users on speed dial (effectively) to call upon at every turn. The book's structure is also odd: the novel is short, but it's quite a long time before the evil force arrives and it departs some time before the end of the book. It's almost like Gaiman wanted to write a moody piece about childhood but then decided he needed some sort of existential threat to be introduced and defeated because, well, it's a fantasy novel.

It's all well-written, as you'd expect, and there's some very nice moments of humour, characterisation and even genre-bending (the Hempstock occasionally evoking atomic physics and dark matter to explain magical events). But it's also a slight novel, with an odd structure and some fairly straightforward plotting. Gaiman seems to have always struggled a little with plotting in his novels, oddly as it's something he does very well in his comic and TV work, and Ocean doesn't address that issue.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (***) is a readable, enjoyable and, ultimately, disposable book. It passes the time but does not lodge in the mind the way Sandman or Neverwhere did. So, the wait for the undisputed Gaiman masterpiece novel continues. Ocean at the End of the Lane is available now in the UK and USA.
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1 of 1 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
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not really my thing, 8 July 2014
By 
Peter Lee (Manchester ,United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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In this very strange book - perhaps aimed at young readers - an unnamed narrator returns to his childhood home after a funeral and visits the neighbouring house where three women in the Hempstock family live. At the back of their home is a pond, which the youngest Hempstock claimed was actually an ocean. The narrator then remembers his childhood, and things become rather strange. A lodger commits suicide and a supernatural presence starts to leave money for people in strange places, our narrator waking one morning with a coin in his throat. His mother starts a new job and a childminder called Ursula Monkton is hired to look after him and his sister, after which events take a sinister turn.

It's a very short and peculiar book, and much is hinted at but unanswered. It feels almost dream-like in some ways, and like most dreams you wake without there being any resolution or logic to what you've experienced, and for me the book was similarly disjointed. By the end I still had no idea what it was all really about, and although the writing was good I can't really say I enjoyed it very much. Maybe I missed something, but then again I confess I'm not a fan of fantasy fiction - the genre this inhabits more than any other.

Lots of people clearly adore this book, but I'm afraid it wasn't my cup of tea at all.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Childhood, 19 Jun 2013
By 
ACB (swansea) - See all my reviews
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This book engages the reader from the opening pages. The narrator looks back, taking us from his childhood through a life that revolves around the Hempstock family. Lettie is something of an enigma. 'I make true art, and sometimes it fills the empty spaces in my life'. From his lonely 7th birthday party, through 'living in books as a child - including comics', his early years involve a series of lodgers, including a tragic gambler. His placement with the threatening Ursula, who sounds scary in a fairy-tale style, leads to the narration 'for a fraction of a moment, my entire childhood felt like a lie'. His destiny is in the power of others. Distraught and feeling helpless he has strength in his hope.

There are some magical moments. 11 year old Lettie is typically childish in describing the local duck pond as an ocean. A figment we may recollect as a reflection of what the future may hold in the imagination yet bound by reality.

This a read that is at times uncomfortable, yet it's delights throw up the predicament of an unhappy childhood, uncaring parents, thrown into a world of cruelty and weirdness made more believable by the made-up fantasies that are not the sole providence of innocence but may be relevant to adults. This excellent novel provides plenty of deep thoughts and after thoughts. The prose is magnificent throughout.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the best thing I have ever read, 10 Aug 2014
By 
Matthew Winn "Realist" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Paperback)
Possibly the best thing I have ever read. A dark modern fairy tale about loss of innocence and the betrayals of growing up. It's possibly the beat things I've ever read. Seriously this book just attacks you in the childhood. It's short but perfectly formed and feels completely genuine in it;s detail. It perfectly captures that feeling of helplessness you had as a child and the shock and loss when you realised that the things you hold to be true are ephemeral. All topped with Gaimans fanatastic kncack fro crafting a tale that feels like a traditional fairy tale.
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Competent but underwhelming tale by a usually fantastic author, 8 July 2013
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As a big Neil Gaiman fan, it pains my to say this, but if I were to sum this book up in one word, it would be "underwhelming." Or possibly "underdeveloped."

Don't get me wrong, it's by no means awful, and there are a few very good things about it. It's just that it's not a patch on most of the rest of his work and if it was my first exposure to this usually brilliant author, I don't think I'd be in a particular rush to try another of his books. It's definitely more reminiscent of the fairly homely Coraline than the epic American Gods or Sandman series.

First, the good. The prose is inevitably lovely. Gaiman surely has one of the best styles of anyone writing in genre fiction. The sense of creepiness, even terror, is wonderfully created. Parts of the book I found as psychologically terrifying as the most full-blown horror novel. Without giving too much away, there's a section where the narrator is trying to leave his house to get help and is constantly foiled which is just a masterclass in ratcheting up the tension.

To some degree, he also creates a good sense of time and place (rural Britain in the seventies) but I thought this could have been developed further. I got the impression that the story could have taken place anywhere and would have enjoyed a bit more linking to local myths and landmarks, in the way you get with Alan Garner or Susan Cooper, or to seventies issues, like in The Rotters' Club or Black Swan Green.

The book apparently started life as a short story and it really shows. Partly, this is a simple length issue. It can't have been more than about 60 000 words and while sometimes short novels can work (the Great Gatsby is this sort of length and an undisputed classic) in this instance I felt it was over before I'd really had time to bond with the characters.

One of Gaiman's greatest strengths is his ability to weave myths and folklore into his stories, but here, the mythos felt oddly superficial. I didn't quite get what the Hempstocks were meant to be (other than yet another example of the Mother/Maiden/Crone concept) or why, if they were as powerful as they seemed, they were living quietly on a Sussex farm. I'd loved to have had more of their backstory and perhaps a bit of their point of view. Having come up with what appeared to be fascinating and original characters, they are horribly underused, and I felt the same to a lesser extent about the two supernatural enemies.

In conclusion, this is definitely worth a read, but if you're a Gaiman fan, maybe adjust your expectations downwards a little and if you've never read him before, start with another book or you might wonder what all the fuss is about. It's an entertaining, well-written and scary read but it's lacking the substance that would elevate it above that. If nothing else, I'd wait for the paperback to come out and the price to drop as it's far too short to justify the current price-tag.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The emperor is scantily clad, 17 July 2013
By 
T. Edwards - See all my reviews
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Literary criticism is a hazardous affair. How do you make a serious discipline out of whether or not you like something? Before I get to my personal opinion let me make two observations, of what I believe to be objective facts, that will be pertinent to my case.

The first is that Neil Gaiman has ascended to the realm of immortals. His ascension owes much to his great talent but this talent is now somewhat irrelevant. Nowadays, if he published a compendium of other people's shopping lists, under his own name, it would sell a gazillion copies, endorsed by the gushing reviews of a dozen minor celebrities.

The second is that this book is short. The difference between a short story, a novella and a novel is hard to pin down and should not be decided by word count alone but one thing is very clear. This is about one third the length of `American Gods' and half the length of `Anansi boys'.

So now the opinions.

There are some things that I like about this book a lot. It evokes the world view of a bookish, introverted seven year old very well indeed. At one point I was literally stunned by a flashback to my own youth, triggered by a few very well chosen words. The magic and the threats, for the first half of the book are entirely in tune with this point of view.

But around three quarters of the way in, things get rather saggy. According to Sanderson's first law (look it up on Wikipedia) the magic is of the soft variety. Initially this just adds to the seven year old's view of reality but eventually, the degree to which undefined magic, with undefined limits, does whatever the hell it wants sucks all the dramatic tension out of the story. Should I worry about what happens next? Nah. They'll just sort it out with magic.

Then the length becomes a real issue. As a short story that evokes childhood it initially succeeds admirably but then outstays its welcome, dissipating much of the charm it had generated. As a novel which describes a complete world, it falls horribly short, feeling like a rough outline that begs for colour and definition. And then, as a consumer, I feel somewhat insulted by being sold this large print short story with the guise and price of a full novel.

There's also the niggling issue of the narrators memory of amnesia...

I find this all very disappointing. I like the majority of what Neil Gaiman has written and, as far as one can tell anything about a celebrity, he seems like a really decent and humane guy. I wanted this book to be great. But it isn't.

So why didn't his many trial readers tell him this while he was writing the story? I refer you to my first observation. Why didn't his editor or his publisher tell him? Maybe because he hadn't published an adult novel for eight years and they thought it was time to milk the cow...

Should you buy this book? Well, if you're already a starry eyed fan then the question is redundant. Of course you'll buy this book and, most likely, you'll want to run me out of town on a rail for detracting. If you're not a fan then I would direct you to one of his other books. `American Gods' or `Anansi Boys' perhaps, or, if you can brave the medium, `The Sandman'. Save this for when it finds its natural home in a collection of short stories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars but I found it difficult to differentiate between what I thought might be a bad dream and reality, 15 July 2014
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I thought this was a bit 'Harry Potter.' Ursula Monkton a female Voldemort? the hunger birds perhaps the death eaters or even the ring wraiths from the Lord of the Rings> It started well, but I found it difficult to differentiate between what I thought might be a bad dream and reality. I read this as a selection from my book club; it wasn't an overwhelming success from that perspective and don't think I'll be reading another by Gaiman for a while.
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Paperback - 10 April 2014)
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