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The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

oceanattheendofthelane

My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

I hardly know what to say about this magical, yet creepy, little book. In some ways, it was everything I hoped it would be. For certain, I couldn’t put it down once I started reading. In other ways, I found it disturbing and, in part, a bit unsatisfactory. NOTE: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!

My biggest problem is that the ending of The Ocean at the End of the Lane felt unfinished to me, but then I find endings where the hero of the book forgets everything that has happened to him to be as big a cop-out as the ones where the entire story turns out to be a dream. It just doesn’t cut it. It smacks of not really knowing how you want to wrap things up. I realize saying this might be a sacrilege to my fellow Gaiman fans, and I apologize for that. I was completely fascinated by the story, and many things were done very well. But the ending . . . sorry. Not so much so.

I was also flummoxed as to why this book was touted as being an “adult” book, rather than geared toward younger readers. I honestly didn’t think it felt any more adult-like than any of the other Gaiman books I’ve read, to date. But for me, this is not a bad thing, necessarily. I have been quite charmed by several of his books aimed at younger readers.

On the plus side, I love stories told from a child’s perspective, and this was no exception. I found the young boy at the heart of the tale to be charming and clever, even if extremely precocious for a seven-year old. He had me from the birthday party that no one showed up for. I loved all the mystery and magic of the world he uncovered, and his observations of unfolding events were droll and wise. He was plucky and brave, in spite of his inner fear, and possessed all of the elements I enjoy in a central character.

I also truly enjoyed the Hempstock women who lived in the house at the end of the lane, in front of the ocean of the book’s title. Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother were remarkable characters. What I don’t understand is why none of the many reviews I read after I finished the book mentioned the most obvious thing about them, namely, that they seemed to represent the Wiccan tradition of the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. I expected to read a lot of comments adressing that, but saw none. Curious.

These powerful women also seemed to have elements reaching even farther back into mythology to the three Fates. Clotho, the spinner, who spins the thread of life; Lachesis, the measurer, who chooses the lot in life one will have, and measures off how long it is to be; and Atropos, who uses her shears to cut the thread of life when it is time for one’s death. Maybe it’s just me, but I certainly saw elements of both the Wiccan figures and the Fates in those mysterious Hempstock women. But of course, we each get something different out of every book we read.

In spite of the things I was less than satisfied with, overall, the story was haunting, beautiful, and compelling, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is a fan of fantasy or magic. Neil Gaiman readers should love it. I did, even while wanting more from the ending. But as always, don’t take my word for any of this. Read it yourself and see what you think.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

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10 thoughts on “The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

  1. Thank you for such a thoughtful review. I always enjoy reading your comments and thoughts.

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    • Thanks so much, “And!” I’m glad you enjoy stopping by. It’s always nice to hear from you. This book is shivery and strange and wonderful, even with the flaws. Let me know if you decide to read it. I’d love to hear what you think.

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  2. Felix on said:

    Interesting……

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    • Hi, Felix! Yeah, this is a weird one. Very interesting, very creepy & shivery, and well worth the read, even with an ending I didn’t like. Still, the journey was intriguing and not much like anything I’ve read before. You might like it.

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  3. I admit I really loved it. For me, I felt that there was what was really happening in the story and then the story over the top seen through the 7 year old boy’s eyes. It wouldn’t surprise me if Gaiman was picturing The Fates for his three women – he’s used them before although I like your Wiccan theory also.
    This is a lovely review. Shame you didn’t like the ending – you probably wouldn’t like my interpretation as it’s a bit sad and I’m not putting it here as it will definitely be a spoiler!
    Lynn 😀

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    • Hi, Lynn! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I did love the story. I was caught up in it from the very first page.

      I will admit right up front that I hate what I always think of as “cop-out” endings. I don’t have to have a clear road map of where everything is going to go after the book is done, but I really don’t want mind-erasure OR the famous “it was all a dream,” kind of stuff. That takes away from the story for me. But in no way did it take away from the pleasure of the book overall. It’s rather delicious. Not perfect, but still a good, shivery read.

      Yes, I could see the contrast of reality versus the boy’s interpretation of what was going on, too. That was very well done. And just the sense of Magic with a capital “M” made the book a wonderful, fun read.

      Glad you could see what I meant about the Wiccan theory and the Fates. The snipping of time thing they did was just so very similar to the mythology of the Fates. I did love the power of those Hempstock women!

      I’m still recommending the book to everyone I know who enjoys fantasy, whether the ending works for me or not.

      Thanks again for your comments!

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  4. I loved this book, but I am becoming a Gaiman fan one book at a time. I felt the ending more fitting than a cop-out, but as you say, different readers.

    After all, there was a reason why he hadn’t remembered the main events of the book until he returned, and a reason why when he left (each time he left) he forgot again.

    His childhood adventure was encapsulated, intentionally isolated from the rest of his life–the ordinary, unmagical life he has to get back to. But the magic is waiting there, and checking up on him from time to time. 🙂

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    • Agreed, but I felt that at some point, and since the book is over, this is the ONLY point left to us, he should have been able to keep his memories and come to some sort of understanding of what he had been through. The only way this ending works for me is if there were to be a sequel. He deserves to carry his history forward with him. But still, I loved the book, even though we don’t see the ending the same way. And I especially loved the Hempstock women. Minus men. 😀

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  5. Great review. I felt very much like you did — I enjoyed the book a great deal and felt a little let down by the ending (which is a little unfair because the rest of the book is so strong).

    I thought the very similarity-yet-strangeness of the alternate world was really wonderfully executed. Like you, I also loved the Hempstock women and saw the Maiden-Mother-Crone comparison pretty readily. I thought they were wonderful and I wanted to spend more time with them.

    Because the book suggested that he’d been to the “ocean” a number of times in his life when he needed it, that it was okay that it would pass into sub-sub-conscious. But I’d have liked it better if he’d shown some of it “sticking” and maybe changing his life view.

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  6. I agree completely, Steve. I felt that at some point, he should have been able to retain the memories, and understand the “lost” feeling he apparently always carried with him. It seemed unfair to leave him to wander on, always confused and wondering what was missing. I was really sad that he could never hold on to any of those experiences, and always had this “hole” where they should have been.

    I’m glad to hear you picked up on the Maiden/Mother/Crone thing. I was really surprised that more reviewers weren’t talking about it, but I didn’t see anyone mention it at all. It was the first thing I thought of.

    The book was lovely, regardless, but I had to make up my own ending, as this one left me wanting more.

    Good to see you today! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    Like

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