Rummanah Aasi
  I always find it hard to write a review for Neil Gaiman's books. He is one of those few authors who don't fit neatly into genre boxes, which is wonderful because I can recommend his books to a wide variety of readers. If you have been thinking about reading a book by Gaiman and have been hesitant because his ideas can be far out there, do try The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The story is pretty straightforward and the writing is beautiful, haunting, and nostalgic.

Description: 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.

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an allegory of childhood. In a very slim book full of magic, wonder, adventure, and overcoming fears, Gaiman reminds his readers what it means to be a child again, to have a wisdom and understanding that adults no longer can wrap their heads round or even care to remember.
   There's an almost dreamlike quality to the narration where the imaginary and the actual easily blend into one another, making it hard to know what's real and what is not. The book opens with an unnamed middle-aged man revisiting the place where he used to live with his parents and sister when he was a young boy of seven. He visits his old house before wandering down to the farm at the end of the lane, a place that starts to bring back a strange sequence of memories as seen through the eyes of a young boy. 
  Readers live vicariously through the unnamed narrator's memories and begin to wonder about our own childhood. How real are the magic and monsters of our childhood? As we grow older, are we the enlightened ones who are pragmatic or ignorant of refusing to believe in the impossible? Are the villains we remember from our childhood monsters from another world or do they represent something real that we try to make sense of? 
  When I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I was fascinated and horrified at the same time. The creepy yet beautiful setting in the English countryside is beautifully rendered. I wanted to be there, but at a very far distance, afraid that I would not be able to resist going inside. The countryside is a little lonely, somewhat isolated as if its a world entirely of its own in which anything could be possible. 
  The characters of book have an other-worldly feel to them. Lettie Hempstock, an eleven year old who might just have been eleven for a very long time, is our friend that we can't seem to understand. As much as we try to make sense of her, she evaporates into thin air. Her quirky mother and grandmother have some strange powers and give advice that we can't might sense of until much later. Though the narrator remains nameless, I did sympathize with him throughout the story. I think many readers will be able to connect to his seven year old lack of understanding and fear of the adult world that he saw as separate from his own. I think we all create a world of our own when we're kids, one that adults aren't a part of, where it is okay to believe in magic and wizards. It just makes me wonder why losing wonder is a rite of passage and makes us adults. 
Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images and a small sex scene. I would recommend this book to older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, The Snow Child by Eowyn LeMay Ivey
10 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    This sounds like such a fascinating story Rummanah! Not something I would typically pick up, but I'm definitely curious now. And I'm with you, I'd watch whatever building it is in the English countryside from afar, because if I got to close I'd have to go inside and see what was there:) Beautiful review!


  2. I have only read one book by this author, but I did enjoy it. This is in my TBR pile and I must read it. I loved those questions you presented to ponder. I often wonder about things I thought I saw or perceived as a child. Were they really there or were they figments of a child's imagination?


  3. I have been wanting to read this book. I also hear it is good on audio. Now to decide which I will read/listen. Might have to see if the library has it on audio. That will decide it. :D I really enjoy his characters and they sound fab in this book.


  4. I have just read another great review of the audio of this which Neil Gaiman reads himself. I am considering it though it isn't something I'd typically read. Just hearing him read it though, just the sample lulled me into a trance. If you liked it so much I think I'll listen to it. Great review!


  5. Candace Says:

    I just read Keertana's review of the audiobook (as I see Heather did as well) and it definitely sounds like something I need to read or listen to, it sounds wonderful!


  6. Renu Says:

    Gosh, I feel like I'm the only one who hasn't read a book by this author! I really want to though. What would you recommend starting with?


  7. I've only read a small handful of Neil Gaiman's books, but I picked this one up as soon as it released and really liked it. I agree that there's a lovely dreamlike quality about the story here. The setting also left an impression on me. Wonderful review, Rummanah! I'm glad that this book worked for you. :)


  8. I've actually never read any of Gaiman's novels but they sounds so amazing. I really need to give one of them a try soon because of the thought provoking questions they raise. Great review, Rummanah!


  9. I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed this! Gaiman's books always seem to be a hit with me, and I'm sure this will be no exception. I love that this has a dreamlike quality and gives the reader the sense of childhood wonders and fears. I'm definitely going to listen to this one on audio, I've heard great things about the narration. Thanks for your lovely thoughtful review!


  10. Urdu Shayari Says:

    Another great book from Neil Gaiman. For a moment I thought that it was a children's book, with the protagonist being a 7 year old boy. But Gaiman has a uncanny ability to mix fantasy and profoundness is such a way that a simplest idea can come to life in so many facets.


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