Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman - CookieBreak Skip to content

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman


“Sussex, England. 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 as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, 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.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.”

WWW27072016.2What I thought:

Would it be enough if I told you to read it because it’s magical? No? Fine, let me try.

This was my second read by Gaiman, but after Stardust I expected a lot of magic and a lot of wonder, and it oozed both.

You know you’re reading a great book when it makes you want to write, when it makes you want to create something magical and fantastic, and this book had me feeling that way all the way through.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about a man who returns to his childhood home, and suddenly remembers magical (apologies if I keep repeating myself – it’s not my fault this book is so damn magical, all right?) events that happened when he was a child. This book is his memory of those events – and the end just about broke something in me, and it’s still aching now.

It’s commonly accepted that magic only exists in movies and books, and then along comes Gaiman with books like this one and he makes you wonder if perhaps a little bit remains after all, and we just can’t see it. As writers many of us want to believe at least a little, but he makes it sound like the most natural thing in an extraordinary way, and I just love him for it.

There was one scene in particular which stood out for me and completely absorbed me, and that was when the main character entered Lettie’s ocean. The whole book was filled with magic, but this scene elevated things further for me.

The ending did something only very few books have achieved – it hurt me, I’m still hurting now several weeks after having finished it, and I love it all the more for it. I’m hurting for the MC, I’m hurting for myself and our desolate world, and it left me feeling empty.

If fantasy is your preferred genre – or even if it isn’t, if you’re up for a change – I can’t recommend this book enough.

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  1. It sounds magical. I might have to read this…

    • It really is. I hope you enjoy it if you give it a go! If you haven’t read anything by him yet, may I recommend Stardust? That one was my first book by him, and a great introduction to his writing!

      • Thanks Sarina I’ll look into getting them 😃

  2. Loads of people had recommended this to me but I ignored their suggestion. Now, I really want to read this!! *grabs a copy with my magical powers*

      • I hope so too! I think I’ve read Coraline (auto correct is making that ‘CAroline!) by him, a short novella, which was a light and quick read 🙂

  3. I’ve read a bunch of Gaiman’s works; some I’ve had to skip over chunks of pages because I was getting a bit terrified (Coraline, anyone?). Ocean at the end…did that for me. But Lettie and her family were so magical, and the bravery and strength they showed and taught him was so great. Interesting bit of fact to contemplate: Gaiman’s father had passed away shortly after he started writing this book, so there is a lot of his actual feelings in the main character. It does make you ache with him. He’s such a nice guy, and so talented, I love him.

    • I haven’t read Coraline, but I’ve seen the movie adaptation and can see why the book would be terrifying!
      That’s very interesting, thank you for sharing that bit of info. I agree, I adore him, too ^-^

  4. Loved this story- I actually listened to it on audio which was narrated by Gaiman himself so it was like hearing the story from his own mind as it was written.

  5. I love your review Sarina! It’s perfect <3 Neil Gaiman has always been one of my favourite fantasy authors because he's able to make magic feel real even in the most mundane settings and in such a subtle way that it sweeps through you and lasts long after the book is done. His words are always magic!
    I'm so glad that you enjoyed this book as well Sarina 🙂 Now to get people to discover the magic of your own beautiful words <3

    • Thank you! It’s hard to relay how magical this story is without overusing the word, like I did 😛
      That’s why this book hurt so much – magic seemed so real in such a mundane setting, you can almost see it looking out your window but no matter how long you look, you won’t find any traces.

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