Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane Neil Gaiman

I wrote this review on Goodreads back in 2013 and I just started thinking about the book again, so I wanted to share it with you.

Let me start by saying that I’m a huge Neil Gaiman fan. I’ve literally read every one of his novels (and some comics), so I was pretty excited when he announced The Ocean at the End of the Lane earlier this year. When it came out in June, I heard nothing but glowing reviews for it and then for my birthday, my wife bought me an autographed copy of the book! So, when it was time to start reading, I had very high expectations and I’m happy to say that they were all met and then some.

Right from the start, the story just has that trademark Neil Gaiman charm and mystique that I’ve come to love so much. At first, the story feels very much like Coraline, which isn’t a bad thing, but I was starting to wonder why they were calling this a fairy tale for adults. As the narrative continued, however, themes and ideas were introduced that a child or probably even most teens wouldn’t completely understand. That’s not to say they wouldn’t enjoy the story though, and that’s when I realized the true genius of the book. It’s written in a fashion that anyone and everyone could read, but the older you are, the more you’re going to get out of it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013) by Neil Gaiman

For young adults, this is a story about a boy, three good witches (though they’re not really witches, as they tell the boy), and monsters from another world who come to make the boy’s life extremely difficult. During a scene (slight spoilers here) where the boy’s father attempts to do him harm (under one of the monster’s influence), a younger viewer would probably feel the boy’s fear and pain alone, but as someone who is about to become a father himself, I also thought about what the father character would feel once he came to his senses and realized what he’d done. This is just one example, but the story has many situations where you can see what’s happening from multiple angles. Gaiman is particularly brilliant in these moments as he always tells the story from the boy’s (sometimes confused) point of view but there is enough allusion to what’s really going on for the reader to put all the pieces together.

The only thing I might find disappointment in would be the length of the novel, but even that feels right when you’re reading it. The story moves at a perfect pace, never rushed but never lagging.

I could type for hours telling about all the things I loved about the book, but I also don’t want to give anything away. I purposely read very little about the actual plot beyond the publisher’s description and I think it’s best for everyone to read it that way. I hate it when book reviews give away too much of the plot and ruin the magic of a book.

All in all, I would recommend The Ocean at the End of the Lane to just about anyone but adults, and more particularly Neil Gaiman fans, will definitely get the most out of it. I look forward now to listening to the audiobook version which is narrated by Neil Gaiman himself who, by the way, is just as amazing a narrator as an author.

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