January 16, 2015

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Source: Bought paperback
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: April 8th, 2014
Age Genre: Young Adult
Challenges: TBR-Challenge
Challenges: Cleaning my Shelves
A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse where she once lived, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly's wings and as menacing as a kinfe in the dark, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understadning of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out.
I wondered, as I wondered so often when I was that age, who I was, and what exactly was looking at the face in the mirror. If the face I was looking at wasn't me, and I knew it wasn't, because I would still be me whatever happened to my face, then what was me? And what was watching?
I think I have a new dream in life. To spend one day inside Neil Gaiman's extraordinary mind. I've a feeling it would either be a traumatizing experience that will scar me for life, or the biggest fun ever. 

I wasn't sure about The Ocean at the End of the Lane before I started it. I've only read one of Gaiman's novels before, Stardust, and I wasn't overly impressed with it. Mostly, I couldn't read the book unless I did so out loud, which doesn't bode well for any book. So, I was afraid that it would happen again, and I won't love this book. 

I needn't have worried, though, because from the first page (the one even before the prologue), I knew I would love this book. 
."The Dream was haunting me: standing behind me, present and yet invisible, like the back of my head, simultaneously there and not there."
This book is extremely hard to describe. If someone asked me what the book is about, I would probably either over-explain and confuse the hell out of them, or simplify it too much so it'll sound way less than it is. 

It's a book that needs to be read, and that's the best I can explain it. 

It's narrated by a man, recalling bizarre childhood experiences by a pond also known as an ocean. We never find out his name. Most of the story, he is eight years old. But the subjects discussed are not exactly Middle Grade material. 

This book gave me the actual chills. It was like a horror story, only not. The things this boy go through are horrifying, but to me what was scarier was how he forgot. Somehow, that seemed exceptionally cruel. Okay, I may be lying. Maybe equally terrifying is the right wording. There were some moments there I had to read with the lights on, they were so creepy. 

Nothing ever happened the way I thought it would. I never knew what to expect. It was like I was floating in a dream, and I just couldn't wake up. 

Gaiman's lyrical, poetic, enchanting words were a big part of weaving this effect, as is the choice to make the Boy and his life completely arbitrary. He has no name. Neither does his sister, his mother, his father, his street, his city... It could've just as easily been me, if I were a boy and had a sister.

And, for the duration of the book, it almost was

I guess that was the whole point. 

"...In those dreams I spoke that language too, the first language, and I had dominion over the nature of all that was real. In my dream, it was the tongue of what is, and anything spoken in it became real, because nothing said in that language can be a lie. It is the most basic building brick of everything. In my dreams, I have used that language to heal the sick and to fly; once I dreamed I kept a perfect little bed-and-breakfast by the seaside, and to everyone who came to stay with me I would say, in that tongue, "Be whole.' and they would become whole, not be broken people, not any longer, because I had spoken the language of shaping."



  1. I got this one on audio during a time when I wasn't in the mood to listen to fiction audiobooks but i'm really looking forward to getting back to it. I agree: I think that getting into Neil Gaiman's mind would be a fascinating thing. You weren't overly impressed by Stardust? Oh noes, that's the one Neil Gaiman book I actually *have!*

    The first page??? AH don't you love it when you come across books that magical that you know you're going to love them from that early on? *sigh* I've heard a lot of Neil Gaiman books are hard to describe. I didn't know it was about a man, or that it has some horror or chilling elements to it. I suppose I should've guessed that with the cover, but oh wells. The 'floating in a dream' - yes, I've heard a lot about his lyrical, poetic way of writing.

    Interesting quote. I'm curious about this dream and the first language... hopefully when i go to get it from the library again, i won't be on hold :O.

  2. I'm really curious how it would be to listen to this story. I'm looking forward to hear your review of it, too.
    Oh, I enjoyed Stardust, but I had a REALLY hard time reading it. Like, I couldn't read it unless I read out-loud, and it was a really slow read. I think it might've had something to do with the movie (which I loved).
    I do love when that happens! It's just... perfect!
    I think it's because he writes so uniquely, both in terms of plot and in how the story moves and stretches. It's doesn't follow a straight line you can neatly trail, but more of a jagged road with unseen turns and changes, and where you end is not where you first set to go.
    The cover actually doesn't make me think "horror", but it doesn't make me feel a bit haunted, which is perfect for this book.
    I loved that quote and part.
    Looking forward to your reading it!!:D And thanks so much for commenting!