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The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013)

by Neil Gaiman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
11,317827433 (4.07)1 / 721
It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.… (more)
Recently added byArina42, private library, SmileIndigo, volke30, szarka
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    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (emperatrix)
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    Coraline by Neil Gaiman (emperatrix)
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    Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (streamsong, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These atmospheric coming-of-age tales are magical and poignant as they dance around issues of good and evil. Though they contain plenty of dark undercurrents, they are ultimately hopeful.
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    A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (bookworm12)
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    Among Others by Jo Walton (norabelle414)
    norabelle414: A young, bookish kid in 1970s England gets tangled up in magical and scary events larger than they are.
  7. 50
    Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (souloftherose)
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    Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (rakerman)
    rakerman: There are similar themes of childhood and memory in The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Tom's Midnight Garden. The Ocean is a much more intense book, Midnight Garden is more wistful.
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    The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper (Iudita)
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    A Sudden Wild Magic by Diana Wynne Jones (LongDogMom)
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    A Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (LongDogMom)
    LongDogMom: Similar style, magical family
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    The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan (-Eva-)
    -Eva-: Similar narrator in a similar environment, where magic is all around, but the growth of the character is the essential part.
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    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (bookworm12, bluenotebookonline, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These fantasy novels featuring boys who get caught up in mystical, mysterious adventures both have dark undercurrents that create a strong atmosphere of suspense. Their vividly imagined fairy tale-like worlds make the stories both wondrous and compelling.… (more)
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    Spirits That Walk in Shadow by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (LongDogMom)
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    CGlanovsky: Sinister and supernatural worlds exist hidden inside an otherwise normal modern UK
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    beyondthefourthwall: Concise, elegantly rendered fantasy novels feeling like classic fairy tales.
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    The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Both books use magical realism to illuminate family relationships.

(see all 27 recommendations)


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Showing 1-5 of 804 (next | show all)
Sometimes there are books that come along and make us remember why we fell in love with reading in the first place and [The Ocean at the End of the Lane is most definitely one of those books. One of my favorite things about Gaiman is how he can transform something so ordinary and everyday into something truly fantastic. It is, seriously, one of his greatest skills as a writer. He makes it easy for the reader to transport themselves into these strangely mundane fantasies where a dead spot of grass in your backyard is a faerie ring and the pond down the lane is really an ocean. I will make no claims to impartiality when it comes to Gaiman, so if you're looking for an objective review I'm sorry you're in the wrong place. If you came here in search of a recommendation though, I can most heartily offer you one. When I force Gaiman onto my friends, I tend to find myself returning to this book. It's short, endearing, and it's a great introduction to Gaiman for those who haven't read him. So, as an avid reader (and a huge fan) I can do nothing else but insist you do your best to get your hands, eyes, and/or ears on a copy of this book. ( )
  Nicole_13 | May 12, 2021 |
Good: It's hard to really list all the things I liked about this book because it begins and ends with almost everything. I usually feel that Gaiman's books aren't as enjoyable as his comics and short stories but this really blew me away. It was scary and dark and weird and just plain great.

Bad: I do think that the beginning takes a bit to really get going but I was listening to it versus reading it and I think I wouldn't have noticed the drag reading it.

Weird: The narrator's sister was a real piece of work. Maybe it's because there was a large age gap between me and my younger sibling but I don't remember him being such a shit to me.

Final: Definitely read this. I think even if you're not normally a Gaiman fan you might enjoy this one. If you're a Wrinkle in Time person you would dig it because it really reminded me of that. ( )
  jobinsonlis | May 11, 2021 |
In my opinion, one of the signs of a good author (and a good story) is the ability the author has to make you feel like you are there with the characters. Gaiman had me with the main character for the entire book to the point that I can't even talk/think about one scene without my stomach churning and feeling uncomfortable just writing about it! The imagery, the story, the character development, etc. were all perfect. I wish it was a little longer but at the same time it was just right in terms of length. I think I just wanted to stay in Gaiman's world a little longer. Great book. ( )
  Stacie-C | May 8, 2021 |
The narrator of this book is never given a name, but he returns as an adult to his childhood home and is swept up in memories of when he was seven years old and a series of events helped change his concept of reality & fantasy. Beginning with the apparent suicide of a nearby traveler found in the car, he then meets Lettie and her mother and grandmother, who live at the end of the lane. Almost simultaneously, the appearance of a strange and rather evil woman appears in order to wreak havoc on his family. The strange and somewhat fantastical events that follow are typical Gaiman style.

I've read several of Gaiman's books now, and I have to be in the right mood to read one. His stories are odd and I feel like they appeal to a certain type of audience, and I'm not necessarily one of those audience members. The stories themselves are not the type that really pull me in. They're somewhat creepy and dark and strange, and they're just not my favorite genre. But. Neil Gaiman is a really good writer and there's no denying that fact. And even more so, he's a fantastic reader of his own audio books, and that more than anything is what pulls me into reading his books. I love listening to him. And that's pretty much how I feel about all of the books that I've read of his so far. The stories......they're okay. His voice.....excellent. ( )
  indygo88 | May 8, 2021 |
I first read The Ocean at the End of the Lane around the time it was originally published in 2013. It was the first novel from Neil Gaiman I'd ever read; I'd seen his Doctor Who work, watched Neverwhere, and read some issues of The Sandman by this point but I had never read one of his novels in their entirety. Talk about a hell of a way to get into Gaiman's work. At the time, I was just approaching adulthood, so this novel's tale of a middle-aged man going through a deeply nostalgic trip down memory lane really hit me hard as it evoked feelings of long-lost childhood and the story itself proved to be far scarier than anything I'd read from Gaiman before - or, frankly, since. Now, since a stage adaptation of the novel has recently been announced by the National Theatre in the UK (it hits the stage in December of this year and I desperately hope National Theatre Live broadcasts it), it felt like the perfect time to revisit this book. It's been six years since I last read it and I reread books so infrequently that it'll almost be like experiencing this story for the first time all over again. And how is it returning to this story, you might ask? Wonderful. I truly adore this novel.

I love this novel. Full stop. From its first page to its final page, I love every moment I spend within the confines of this story. It's not a particularly long book - it clocks in at just under 200 pages - and it's certainly a quick read, but it sucks you into the world of the story immediately and doesn't let you go, holding onto your soul and your thoughts long after you've finished the book. It's not necessarily a book you'll be clamoring to reread immediately, as it packs such an emotional punch that you'll likely be left emotionally drained after finishing it - so much so that it can feel like you've been hit by a freight train. I say all of that in the best way humanly possible.

On its surface, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is like any other Neil Gaiman novel. A seemingly normal main character ends up getting sucked into some crazy, supernatural stuff and shenanigans ensue. What's different about this book, though, is just how little the supernatural stuff actually matters. Sure, it's the supernatural stuff that really sets the plot in motion and it's the supernatural stuff that ends up resolving the plot, but the heart of the story is about a man remembering a traumatic event from his childhood; it's an examination of memories and how they can shape you and how their absence can make a huge difference. By basing so much of the book around the memories of the narrator, Gaiman imbues it with this weird balance of nostalgia for a childhood lost and the genuine terror that comes with being a child caught up in a traumatic event. By the end of the book, you feel the pain that the younger version of the narrator felt as he went through the events the first time and you feel the loss the older narrator feels as he is destined to forget all of these events once again. It's a one-two punch that's immensely impactful.

Gaiman's written a number of stories featuring a child protagonist, and those books are normally aimed at a younger audience. This book, while it has a child protagonist, is definitively not a children's book. The story is bookended by a prologue and an epilogue featuring a middle-aged version of the narrator returning to the neighborhood he grew up in and finding himself drawn to a mysterious house at the end of his lane. Upon going there, he is flooded with memories he'd forgotten of adventures with the girl who lived in the house - Lettie Hempstock - culminating in some pretty traumatic events that changed his life. The bulk of the story is the adult narrator retelling these newly recovered memories as he experiences them again, so all of the scenes with the child-version of the narrator are told from a very adult point-of-view; there are several instances where the narrator says something along the lines of "I didn't think anything of it then, but were I to experience this now, here's what I'd likely think..." It's a really clever way to write a story about children while targeting it toward adults. Children could read this book (although I'm not sure I'd let someone much younger than early-teenager read it), but I have a feeling they wouldn't like it as much as they'd like something like Coraline. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a book about childhood that's written for adults and it's remarkably effective.

As far as I'm concerned, this is Neil Gaiman's scariest book. Sure, some of his other novels have featured more traditionally horrifying imagery - an "Other" Mother who wants to sew buttons into your eyes, for example - but The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a different kind of terrifying. The actual monsters are scary, but you don't really get scared by their descriptions. What's scary are their actions, the way they go about getting what they want; Ursula Monkton's attacks on the narrator are particularly scary, especially the way she manipulates the narrator's family to turn against him. That kind of domestic horror really hits me hard and I will always find something like the scene between the narrator and his father in the bathroom (I don't wanna spoil what happens) extremely scary. Couple that with the existential dread of death and losing your memories and you've got a book that's less viscerally scary and more emotionally scary. When we experience events, we never really think about how one day, there's a good chance we won't remember whatever we're experiencing. Memories become fuzzy and they fade after a while, and this book touches on that feeling of knowing there's something to remember but being unable to remember it in such a visceral way. Memories are all we have of our past, but if we don't have them, what do we have? And when they can be so easily manipulated, can they even be trusted? These are not questions the book seeks to answer, but they are raised and you will be left thinking them as you follow the narrator's experiences throughout the novel. This kind of emotionally-based horror will always be scarier than more traditional kinds of horror - and I love a good traditionally scary horror story.

Is this a perfect novel? No. Are there flaws in it? Yes. There's a general lack of any real character development for anybody besides the narrator. We never really get to know any of the side characters - most notably anyone from the Hempstock family, members of which have appeared in several of Gaiman's stories and remain just as mysterious as they were in their first appearance. Everything happens very quickly and you don't really get to understand the threat of the story; exactly what it is and what it wants is never really made clear. But, honestly, I don't mind it here. This is one of those stories where none of that really matters. It's a story about a middle-aged man remembering this traumatic event he experienced as a seven-year-old boy; there's a limit to the knowledge he'd even have. He'd have no idea what Ursula Monkton was or what she really wanted. He'd have no idea about the greater history of the Hempstock family. Seven-year-olds are fairly self-obsessed, so it's only to be expected that he's not gonna have any knowledge outside of what he experienced - and, even then, that knowledge might be flawed as he's literally remembering forgotten memories. Does a part of me wish I could spend more time in the world of this novel and get to know all of the characters better and see more of the world explored? Yes, but that's not something this story needed. This is a world that Gaiman could return to, were he ever so inclined to do so, and I'd gladly eat it up. But this story had exactly what it needed within it to make it successful. There's never a moment where you feel like the story is lingering on something; and, even in the moments you might wish it would linger a bit more, you're so caught up in the way the narrator is telling the story, that you're just swept along with it. It's really good writing.

All in all, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is my favorite Neil Gaiman book. It's one of my favorite books that I've ever read. Each time I read it, it impacts me so hard that I feel emotionally wrecked after finishing it. It's one of those stories that sticks with you long after you've read it. It's a story about childhood written for adults and it leaves you nostalgic for your own childhood, especially if you share any similarities with the narrator of the novel. It's a short book and fairly easy to read in one sitting, though I'm not sure I'd advise that as it can be an emotionally draining read. For this particular read-through, I actually spent the better part of four days reading it as I needed to put down the book a few times in order to recompose myself after a particularly affecting scene. All that being said, it really is my favorite of Gaiman's novels - and I have yet to read a novel written by him that I haven't loved. I wish the Hempstocks got more focus in the novel, but that's always something that can be explored in a different novel, especially as they've appeared in multiple stories already. This isn't a novel I'll reread often, but it is one I'll frequently think about. It's rare that I find a story that hits me so hard emotionally, that I connect to on such an emotional level. But I love this book. It was recently announced that it's getting adapted into a play at the National Theatre in England and I'm super excited to see how it gets translated onto the stage. This is definitely a story that could work really well on stage and I'm thrilled that an entirely new audience might get exposed to this brilliant story. If you like Neil Gaiman, read this book. If you like horror that's more personal and more existential, read this book. And if you like stories that (sort of) deal with memories, read this. Honestly, just read this book. It's short and it's so good. ( )
  thoroughlyme | Apr 23, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 804 (next | show all)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane arouses, and satisfies, the expectations of the skilled reader of fairytales, and stories which draw on fairytales. Fairytales, of course, were not invented for children, and deal ferociously with the grim and the bad and the dangerous. But they promise a kind of resolution, and Gaiman keeps this promise.
added by riverwillow | editThe Guardian, AS Byatt (Jul 3, 2013)
[Gaiman's] mind is a dark fathomless ocean, and every time I sink into it, this world fades, replaced by one far more terrible and beautiful in which I will happily drown.
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, Benjamin Percy (Jun 27, 2013)
The story is tightly plotted and exciting. Reading it feels a lot like diving into an extremely smart, morally ambiguous fairy tale. And indeed, Gaiman's adult protagonist observes at one point that fairy tales aren't for kids or grownups — they're just stories. In Gaiman's version of the fairy tale, his protagonist's adult and child perspectives are interwoven seamlessly, giving us a sense of how he experienced his past at that time, as well as how it affected him for the rest of his life.
added by SimoneA | editNPR, Annalee Newitz (Jun 17, 2013)
Reading Gaiman's new novel, his first for adults since 2005's The Anansi Boys, is like listening to that rare friend whose dreams you actually want to hear about at breakfast. The narrator, an unnamed Brit, has returned to his hometown for a funeral. Drawn to a farm he dimly recalls from his youth, he's flooded with strange memories: of a suicide, the malign forces it unleashed and the three otherworldly females who helped him survive a terrifying odyssey. Gaiman's at his fantasy-master best here—the struggle between a boy and a shape-shifter with "rotting-cloth eyes" moves at a speedy, chilling clip. What distinguishes the book, though, is its evocation of the powerlessness and wonder of childhood, a time when magic seems as likely as any other answer and good stories help us through. "Why didn't adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and ... dangerous fairies?" the hero wonders. Sometimes, they do.

» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gaiman, Neilprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coder, LaneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, AdamCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kerner, Jamie LynnDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKean, DaveIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sasscer, AshleeCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"I remember my own childhood vividly ... I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn't let adults know I knew. It would scare them."

Maurice Sendak, in conversation with Art Spiegelman,
The New Yorker, September 27, 1993
For Amanda,
who wanted to know
First words
It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm. It wasn't very big.
Books were safer than other people anyway.
You don't pass or fail at being a person, dear.
Lettie Hempstock said it was an ocean, but I knew that was silly. She said they'd come here across the ocean from the old country.
Her mother said that Lettie didn't remember properly, and it was a long time ago, and anyway, the old country had sunk.
I do not remember asking adults about anything, except as a last resort.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

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Book description
When a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home in Sussex, England, for a funeral he remembers frightening childhood memories relating to the neighbor girl who promised to protect him from the darkness unleashed by a suicide at the pond at the end of their street.

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond this world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defence is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac - as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wings, as dangerous as a knife in the dark - from the storytelling genius of Neil Gaiman.
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