The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman It was with great excitement that I bought – and immediately started reading – Gaiman’s new novel. At the end I thought:

1. I really want a black fluffy kitten
2. and a friend like Lettie would be great, too
3. “that pond” is really a boring name for the expanse of water in my neighborhood
4. Adults can be scary sometimes
5. and children even more so
6. Imagination is the most powerful thing we own
7. and sometimes the most dangerous
8. Magic is not a waving of the wand and incantations
9. at least not anymore
10. Why is this book less than 200 pages long?
11. I really wanted more.

Childhood. Memories that stay buried deep within until the sight of a familiar house brings them back like an avalanche. A friend. Gone but not really gone, because what are memories but scenes of life we can play again and again in our heads and we never get tired of them. An old, kind woman, so old she claims to remember things that other people might find weird, to say the least. And a pond, which is not really a pond, but something else.

The protagonist of the story is only seven when he meets Lettie Hempstock who lives on Hempstock Farm. She is a few years older than him and she tells him things that don’t really make sense unless you’re young and innocent and you believe in everything, even if that everything means you’ll have to stretch your imagination quite a bit. She introduces him to a world of wonder and terror, of amazing food (made me hungry just reading about that) and real monsters, the kind that burrow into your skin and don’t come out.

But even with these weird things happening, I found myself nodding my head and saying it all makes sense. Yes, even when you read about cutting off events and sewing back the fabric of time, it still sounds perfectly normal. This is the magic I’m talking about, and in Gaiman’s book there’s plenty of that. The writing flows easily, at times so smooth and easy that it felt like reading a poem, each word carefully crafted and placed in its rightful little niche, creating a melody of words I was sorry to leave behind. And when I finished it I cried, not because the ending was sad, but because Gaiman’s book had managed to open a door in me and now I had to close it. And I felt sad and utterly alone again.

Some beautiful quotes:

“That’s the trouble with living things. Don’t last very long. Kittens one day, old cats the next. And then just memories. And the memories fade and blend and smudge together…”

“Everything here is so weak, little girl. Everything breaks so easily. They want such simple things. I will take all I want from this world, like a child stuffing its fat little face with blackberries from a bush.”

“How can you be happy in this world? You have a hole in your heart. You have a gateway inside you to lands beyond the world you know. They will call you, as you grow. There can never be a time when you forget them, when you are not, in your heart, questing after something you cannot have, something you cannot even properly imagine, the lack of which will spoil your sleep and your day and your life, until you close your eyes for the final time, until your loved ones give you poison and sell you to anatomy, and even then you will die with a hole inside you, and you will wail and curse at a life ill-lived.”

Read in August, 2013

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14 Responses to The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

  1. Vishy says:

    Welcome back, Delia! Today three nice things happened – the postman brought a package containing a book, I finished writing a book review and then I saw your review of Gaiman’s book 🙂 Feeling very happy! I loved your 11-point brief review in the beginning. I didn’t know that the book was less than 200 pages long – wish Gaiman had written more. I loved this from your review – “cutting off events and sewing back the fabric of time”. I want to read the book and find out how this is described. I liked all the passages you have quoted. The first one about kittens growing up to be old cats made me remember Marlen Haushofer’s ‘The Wall’, in which something similar happens and makes us sad.

    Thanks for this beautiful review! I will look forward to reading Gaiman’s book.

    • Delia says:

      Thanks Vishy! 13 must be your lucky number then, at least when it comes to book-related things. 🙂
      This book being so short was the only thing I can complain about. I remember picking it up at the bookstore and thinking, that’s it, why is it so short?
      That passage you quoted – well, I’d better not spoil it for you so I won’t comment…
      I really loved this book, that is why I started reading Good Omens, to keep that Gaiman magic for a while longer but I found “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” much, much better.
      Haven’t read The Wall yet, or any other books by Marlen Haushofer but it’s a name I’ll write down in my “authors to-read” notebook.

      • Vishy says:

        Yes, it looks like 13 might be my lucky number 🙂 I forgot for a while that it was Friday the 13th! I can’t wait to find out more about sewing the fabric of time. Hope you are enjoying reading ‘Good Omens’, though I can understand your thoughts on it – it is always hard for our current book to meet our expectations if the previous book we read was absolutely magical.

        Hope you enjoy exploring Marlen Haushofer’s works. I loved both of her books that I read till now. She creates beauty out of everyday things and the images she paints with words are very beautiful.

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    Welcome back Delia!

    Superb commentary on this book.

    I had previously head really good things about it. This makes me really want to read this. At less then 200 pages it does sound too short.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Brian, thanks for still coming around. It’s been a while, hasn’t it…
      It’s a beautiful story. I still feel nostalgic when I read about it. I would recommend this to all my friends. Hope you get to read it.

  3. Athira says:

    Oh, I loved this book. I just finished it two days ago and wish this book had never ended. It was beautiful!

  4. Lynn says:

    I loved this book but then I seem to like most books by Gaiman – and, I’m going to see him at a reading in October and I’m so excited I could pop! But then I’d miss it so I’m going to count to ten instead. 😀

  5. Pingback: Book Review – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman | Vishy's Blog

  6. Caroline says:

    Vishy was right, this is a lovely review. I like it a lot.
    I’m very curious to find out if I’ll like it as much as you did.
    I’m finishing Fragile Things at the moment and some of the stories are so good.

    • Delia says:

      Thanks Caroline. I felt very emotional while reading this book and especially the end. It found its way to the child in me.
      I’m very curious to see how you’ll feel about it, too. 🙂
      A friend of mine bought Fragile Things just last month and she knows I want to read it so I’ll probably do that soon. Good to hear you’re enjoying the stories, that makes me want to start reading it even more.

  7. This is a beautiful review, Delia. Loved your list.

    And, thank you for recommending this book to me. I finished it last night, at one sitting. I loved it too. Will share my thoughts soon. 🙂

    • Delia says:

      Hi Deepika,
      I’m always happy to spread the word about the books I love.
      You finished it in one sitting? That great!
      I’m heading over to your blog to read the review.

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