Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Book Review)

Author: Neil Gaiman
Year: 2013
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Adult

Plot Summary: When he was a small boy, Lettie Hempstock told him the pond was an ocean.  Now a middle-aged man, he's returned to his old neighborhood and the farm where Lettie lived.  There, sitting by the pond, he remembers the darkness of his childhood days and Lettie's place in it.  

Red Flags: Scary scenes and imagery, some sexual content very ambiguously described, death, menacing adults, a scene of attempted child murder  (Disclaimer: this list makes the book sound quite dark--and it is dark--but in execution the effect is intense and gripping but not nauseating or just plain old terrible to read.)

My Rating: A
I loved this book.  When Neil Gaiman is good, he is excellent and truly gifted.  While this has many of the plot elements in his other books (it reminded me most of Coraline), he executes it so well the similarities didn't matter to me.  I don't even know how to describe what I liked about this book without word vomiting all over the place.  Will a barrage of little sentences suffice?  Let's do.

The story was gripping--I couldn't stop turning pages.  The setting was so vivid, I could feel the dirt between my toes and see the lightning in the spooky night sky.  The spookiness!  Oh the spookiness.  It was so deliciously spooky and scary, BUT it didn't freak me out to think of it in the middle of the night later.  I appreciate that, as I always up in the middle of the night these days.  That's not to say it's not scary--it just wasn't that kind of scary.  Does that even make sense?  

Anyway, I loved reading it, and it was a bit sad when it was over, though I think it is the perfect length and missing nothing.  The story moves along, there are no drags or boring bits.  Also I liked that even though it is technically for adults, it's not nearly as adult in content as some of his other adult books.  The characters, half without any names, are unique and there are just the right number of them.  The narrator was endearing in his little boyness.  Also, one thing Neil Gaiman does so well in this book and in his others is not explaining things.  He doesn't spell out the supernatural elements or the mystical otherworlds, and he doesn't need to because he doesn't describe them so well.  (That was a lot of "doesn't"s, I know)  You don't need the long-winded explanations or back story, and yet you understand them anyway.  I'm not sure how he pulls this off exactly, but I think part of it is that he writes so confidently.  

My hat is off to you, Mr. Gaiman.  


  1. Hey! We've all read Neil Gaiman! Maybe we should just meet and have a book club where we talk about how awesome this book is.