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Evocative Imagery and Powerful Allusions . . . But There Were Some Major Dealbreakers ⇉ Review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Thursday, July 27, 2017
I read and loved The Graveyard Book and Coraline. When I mentioned that I wanted to read more Gaiman books, friends highly recommended The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I still love Gaiman's masterful writing, and Ocean is a well-written novel. However, due to several reasons, Ocean is not for me.


Evocative Imagery
Neil Gaiman is a master with words. His writing is as beautiful and compelling; it lingers in the mind and brings the world to life without extending into long, rambling sentences.

Powerful Allusions
As with the imagery, Gaiman's choice use of allusions brings the world to life quickly and powerfully without needing much to be said.

Creative World Building
I love magical realism for its ability to convey a realistic portrayal of the world while slipping in magical elements in such a natural way that it feels believable, like its always been a part of the world. Neil Gaiman does just this in Ocean. The world is creative and, more importantly, believable. This gives more weight to the themes interwoven into the plot.


Mature Suggestions
The synopsis tells us that frightening, dangerous things happened to the narrator as a child. I was prepared for terrible things, and I agree that terrible things happened to the narrator. That said, I was not prepared for some of the more graphic visuals; I didn't need these details and definitely wouldn't want a child reading them. (There's a reason, besides the theme of hopelessness, that this is classified as an adult novel.)

Themes of Powerlessness and Helplessness
One message that this novel conveys is that we are powerless and helpless to make a difference in some situations. The ending in particular left me wondering if anything could have changed the fates of the characters involved in the events that took place in the narrator's childhood.

In the end, is it better to be left in the narrator's situation forty years after the events of his childhood, or is it better to keep fighting for the optimal situation?

What's the Point in Reading Ocean?
I'm sure there are people who will read this and come up with great themes and messages to apply to our lives. I was left wondering what was the point in reading this book. What am I supposed to get out of this novel? Perhaps that is the point: to get us thinking about the novel is trying to tell us.



There's no question about Neil Gaiman's mastery of his craft, and I'll likely continue to read his novels. However, I'm not sure that I'm as big a fan of his adult novels as his children's novels. I love the themes of hope to be found in children's novels. This novel was a 180-degree turn into helplessness. That said, this is the first Gaiman adult novel that I've read. I'll give some more of them a try before I come to a final decision on this point.


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.


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Do you enjoy books with magical realism? Have you read a Neil Gaiman book before? What are your thoughts?

Publication Info
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • Published by William Morrow
  • On June 3, 2014
  • Genres: FantasyMagical Realism
  • Pages: 195 Pages
  • Format: Paperback
  • N/A
Mature Content
  • Domestic violence
  • Nightmarish creatures
  • Suggestive, visual, sexual images in the context of an affair
  • Suicide
  • Violence

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