- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Headline (10 April 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1472200349
- ISBN-13: 978-1472200341
- Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1,522 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane Paperback – 10 Apr 2014
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From New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling writer Neil Gaiman, comes a novel of memory, magic and survival, about the power of stories and the darkness inside each of us.
About the Author
Neil Gaiman is the author of over thirty acclaimed books and graphic novels for adults and children, including AMERICAN GODS, STARDUST, CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. His most recent novel for adults, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE was highly acclaimed, appeared on the hardback and paperback Sunday Times bestseller lists and won several awards, including being voted Book of the Year in the National Book Awards 2013: 'Some books you read. Some books you enjoy. But some books just swallow you up, heart and soul' Joanne Harris.
The recipient of numerous literary honours, Neil Gaiman's work has been adapted for film, television and radio. He has written scripts for Doctor Who, worked with authors and illustrators including Terry Pratchett, Dave McKean and Chris Riddell, and THE SANDMAN is established as one of the classic graphic novels. As George R R Martin says: 'There's no one quite like Neil Gaiman.'
Originally from England, Neil Gaiman now lives in America.
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It captures the feel of growing up in the country really well, with common places made special and otherworldly simply by their location and a young imagination.
In some ways the story feels really rather sad, a melancholic vein running through, perhaps made more ‘real’ by the fact that the story is told retrospectively by the main protagonist.
A character that would appeal to many who grew up reading books, lost in adventures in their heads, he tells us that he found it hard to make friends as when younger. He seemed happy enough living with his mother, father and sister until a sequence of events brings him into contact with the Hempstock family, the youngest of them, a daughter Hettie, a few years older than himself.
They live in a farm at ‘the end of the lane’ with a pond in the middle of the yard, although Hettie calls it an ocean, a fanciful bit of imagination.
But as with stories of this type there is a lot more going on than initially meets the eye, and the new friends embark on an adventure to stop something dark seeping into the world. It is a threat that gradually escalates until only a sacrifice will appease.
The book draws on archetypes, most importantly in the form of the Hempstock family. There is a power in the form of three women, often shown as three witches although Gaiman makes them so much more in this instance. It is something that the late Terry Pratchett used and can be traced back through literature over the ages, indeed Gaiman himself made use of the trope in has Sandman series.
The Crone (rather unkind), the Mother and the Maiden – a role fulfilled by the Hempstock family. They seem somewhat archaic, but also seem to know a lot more about the world than anyone else. They are also filled with mystery and a gentle cunning. Hettie gives her age as eleven, but it is then established that the important question is how long has she been eleven?
For what is really quite a small book it is hidden with depth, from the characters themselves (especially the Hempstocks), touching on themes of loss, of greed, of suicide, of the feeling that there is more to the world than we could possibly believe, of courage and the willingness to sacrifice the most potent of things for friendship and more. Of horror that can lurk in the most innocuous of places and of the bravery it takes to find it.
It is also very unsettling, having one of the most disturbing scenes I have read in a long time as a father tries to drown his son.
Perhaps it is the mark of desperation falling upon a man finding his world being diminished by financial difficulties, but there is nothing more disturbing or terrifying than finding that one of the two people in the world that should be there for a child no matter what, is a bigger threat than anything else in the world.
It is a book that is both terrifying and wonderful, delivering a conclusion that is fitting and yet downbeat. A genuine telling and a charming read.
I loved the film Coraline and the TV series of American Gods, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane really didn’t thrill me. I enjoy some fantasy, have been a fan of horror since I was a young girl, and absolutely love magical realism, but for some reason this story didn’t get inside me. Don’t get me wrong, it is well written, and clearly loved by many, but it felt like it was lacking something I can't quite put my finger on.
Maybe it’s unfortunate this was the first book I read by this author. Perhaps I would love his other books, or it’s just best I stick to enjoying his film and TV adaptations instead. I was also expecting an adult book, but this felt much more young adult to me, so that might explain some of my disappointment.
There were a couple of quotes I liked:
“Books were safer than other people anyway.”
“I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible.”
Oh, and this book did have my mouth watering at the memory of Blackjacks, which were one of my favourite childhood sweets. Yum!
I have Neverwhere and Stardust on my to be read pile, so perhaps I’ll give one of them a go at some point. Who knows, maybe I’ll eventually get round to reading my husband’s old copy of Good Omens one day too.
If you like a quirky, bizarre story then you've come to the right place. You know those sort of stories that immerse you in a surreal fantasy world that could just possibly exist alongside an everyday real one? Whilst people's lives intertwine with it, oblivious to its existence? Then yes, this is DEFINATELY for you.
It's dreamlike and slightly nuts in places, but altogether highly original. Yet it's told in a clever, matter-of-fact way that it actually makes it strangely plausible. It's a fantasy-fairylike-tale with a whopping, great punch throughout.
I must mention that the intimidation of the young boy by a truly vile villain, together with the 'angry birds' scene later in the book are captured in a perfectly sinister manner, painting quite a graphic image in your mind.
And I'll admit, I got myself lost a couple of times with the changing story between the past (the young boy) and the present (the boy grown up), particularly toward the end, but a quick re-read of the chapter put me straight. That was my fault entirely and not the book - therefore, I would recommend giving it your 100% attention to fully appreciate it, it would be a crime not to.
This is the first book I've read by Neil Gaiman and it's left me wanting to read more. 4.5 stars out of 5.
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