Friday, January 17, 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.”

I'm not sure I have anything new to say about Gaiman's very recent novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but I'll try and say something new anyway.

First, I should be upfront and admit that I haven't read a ton of Gaiman (American Gods, Neverwhere, Stardust, and Coraline), and I am pretty divided about how I feel about his writing. Sometimes it grabs me, sometimes it doesn't. So, when I saw this out at bookstores, I was incredibly hesitant to pick it up.

I finally caved after seeing so many glowing reviews. I'm glad I did because I thoroughly loved this book.

The novels opens with a man returning home after many years away for a funeral. Stifled by being home after so long, he begins to remember things from his youth and a girl who lived down at the end of the lane. As he sits by her old pond, which she called an ocean when they were kids, he begins to remember things from his childhood.

Now, I could tell you about the story itself, but that would ruin it. Instead, I want to talk about the importance of childhood memories. Because as the man begins to remember his childhood and what happened to him, it brought to mind my own memories. As he struggled with the pretty horrific images from his youth, I also thought of things from my own youth-happy and sad. And I wondered, how well do I really remember things from my past? Has my mind, as I've aged, started to change the way I remember events?

That, I think, is the magic of Gaiman's novel. There is a balance there-between the depth and romanticism of our youth with the harsh reality of adulthood. Because as we age, the horrors and monsters we faced as children become something much more real. And we cannot escape inside ourselves-we have to face those monsters and the evils of adulthood!

Ah, there is so much more I could say about the novel itself, but I don't want to spoil it. It's a magical thing that you need to read and experience for yourself.

But trust me, it's a good one.

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”


  1. I read this one back in August (and reviewed it here: and what has struck me ever since is how varied the responses of bloggers have been. I think that's the mark of a great book, that so many people can get dwell on very different themes. I didn't love this Gaiman novel, mostly because of the pessimism I read into it, but I have LOVED hearing everybody else's thoughts. Thank you for your musings about memory and time - that's not a perspective I thought much about as I read it!

  2. I feel similarly about Gaiman. I loved Stardust, found American Gods engaging from the middle onwards and was underwhelmed by Anansi Boys. From what you say, this book should be thematically interesting to me, though, so I'll add it to the perpetual 'to-read' list.

  3. I really do want to read this book! i'm a private duty na for an elderly lady and I went to her book club meeting a few days ago. They all shared what books they had gotten for Christmas, and one sweet lady from Germany had this book, which I found delightful. I really hope I'm still reading Gaiman in my 80s!

  4. So glad you liked this one. I'm also pretty split on his writing but I've loved The Graveyard Book and Coraline. I wasn't sure how I'd take to this one since it's technically not YA (Gaiman says), but it sucked me right in.

  5. thanks for your great post. this was basically my first book by Gaiman, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, I actually listened to it, read by Gaiman himself, really neat!

  6. I do not love Neil Gaiman either, but a lot of people have said that even if you are not a huge fan that you should pick this one up. This review confirms that!

  7. I'm pretty divided on Gaiman's works too, but I did love this one.

  8. This is a pretty great book. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I did The Graveyard Book or Neverwhere, but I think this one is going to linger much longer.
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  9. I love what you said about romanticizing our youth. I loved this one and I think that was a big part of it. I loved his exploration of seeing our childhood through our memories. Do we make things worse/better? Do we misunderstand things or distort them in our own minds? I loved it.