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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

93 out of 114 people found this review helpful.

Over the course of his career, author Neil Gaiman has delighted

Over the course of his career, author Neil Gaiman has delighted readers with his storytelling abilities. His almost childlike sensibilities have allowed him to reach audiences through various mediums, spanning from comic books to more traditional children and adult lite...
Over the course of his career, author Neil Gaiman has delighted readers with his storytelling abilities. His almost childlike sensibilities have allowed him to reach audiences through various mediums, spanning from comic books to more traditional children and adult literature. With his latest adult novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, he explores a dark story with enough whimsy and emotion to attract readers of all tastes.
The novel begins with a forty something year old man returning to the small English town where he grew up. His old home has long been demolished, but he is drawn instead to a dilapidated farmhouse at the end of the lane. When he arrives there, he begins to reflect on his childhood and the dark events that occurred at the place.
He was only seven years old when it began. A quiet boy, more at home with his nose in a book than playing with other children, he was an outcast within his own family. We learn that the family is struggling with money. They decide to move him from his own room to bunk with his sister, leaving an empty bed to rent out. With the arrival of the renter, a mysterious opal miner, dark events begin to occur.
The boy meets the three generations of Hempstock women who run the farm at the end of the lane. Lettie Hempstock, who claims to have been eleven years old for a very long time, immediately entrances the boy with her enchanting way with words and conviction that the pond that rests at the very end of the lane is actually an ocean. She agrees to allow him to tag along as she takes a trip to an odd place that lies somewhere between this world and the next. Upon their return from the strange place, an evil is released. Following the untimely death of the mysterious opal miner, this evil takes the form of a menacing nanny, who takes up residence at the boy's home. With the help of the Hempstock women, the boy must vanquish the evil while learning the true meaning of sacrifice.
Neil Gaiman is known for his delightfully dark, whimsical fairytales. This novel is no exception. At its heart, this is a coming of age story that beautifully depicts the fun, confusion, magic, and sacrifice of growing up. Gaiman makes these sometimes difficult realities more accessible through his imaginative characters, situations, and pacing. The novel is completely engrossing, begging to be read in a single sitting. With an ending that is both poignant and satisfying, readers of all ages should definitely follow Gaiman to the end of the lane.

posted by ABookAWeekES on June 18, 2013

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Most Helpful Critical Review

19 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

I really want to like Neil Gaiman's work...I really do. But ever

I really want to like Neil Gaiman's work...I really do. But every time I read his works I come away feeling like something is missing. American Gods left me puzzled and confused and to a certain degree angry.  Ocean, however was a better experience, but you are left wit...
I really want to like Neil Gaiman's work...I really do. But every time I read his works I come away feeling like something is missing. American Gods left me puzzled and confused and to a certain degree angry.  Ocean, however was a better experience, but you are left with more questions than answers and somehow I get the feeling that is his aim. Bad luck for me I'm not the kind of reader entertained by such devices. So I'm leave it at this, if you love Gaiman, you'll love this. If you hate Gaiman, you'll hate this and if you  have never read him before, he's definitely a modern classic writer for all the good and bad of it but still worth a try. 

posted by AzureGrimoire on July 3, 2013

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  • Posted June 20, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    "Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content

    "Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences."

    This was the one quote that really made me stop reading the novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by author Neil Gaiman and really consider all the profound truth that may lie within the simple quote. It is very true and it takes the imagination of a child to really appreciate all the things that Neil brings to life in this one. An adult would try to reason there way through this, while a child would just accept what is happening and move forward without needing to know why.

    In this dark, fairy tale story, monsters are really and the things you think are real, really are. In fact I am reminded of Tim Burton's movies as I read through this one. At first, it doesn't make a lot of sense much like a child explaining something out of the ordinary. You just need to stop over analyzing it and just take it as face value and continue to dig deeper.

    In this one the narrator, who's name I don't believe is ever mention is remembering back to a childhood experience that happened to him when he was only seven. Now much older he has returned to the place when the horror began and where the nightmare was something he truly lived and not dreamed. It begins with the death of the boy's only companion, a kitten that was accidentally run over and killed by their border, an Opal Miner who thinks simply replacing the cat will appease the damage he has done. This is the beginning of a not so happy story. Much like A Series of Unfortunate Events, Neil Gaiman takes his much deeper and to a darker place where evil now has an open door into the current world in which to find a foothold in solving what people believe makes them happy. To do so, requires a bit of finesse, but one our character can see through.

    It's when he follows his father one morning when their car is reported missing that he discovers the body of the Opal Miner in the car and thus introduces us to the women in the Hempstock household who have the uncanny ability to solve things that no one else can see. He is soon befriended by Lettie, an eleven year old girl who has been eleven for quite some time and has a prophetic vision to what is really happening in town. Lettie and her family live at the end of the lane and care for the boy until his father comes calling for him. Soon he finds out that Lettie and her family have far more powers than he could ever imagine and thus the novel turns into a darker more menacing version of Alice in Wonderland meets Bridge to Terabithia.

    I received The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman compliments of William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins Publishers for my honest review and received no monetary compensation for a favorable one. This is not recommended for young teens and falls in the upper young adult category to be age appropriate. I would have to say the writers ability to pull off an exceptional fantasy tale with a dark twist is wonderful and I'd rate this one a 4 out of 5 stars. It is a surprisingly thin novel that draws out the story to feel like you've read a whole lot more pages than you did, a mark of an exceptional writer. I look forward to reading more from this author and fully enjoyed his unique writing style. This is the very same author who wrote Coraline, so you can prepare yourself for what you are about to find inside.

    10 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2013

    Typical Gaiman

    Great read. Wish it lasted longer!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2014

    Not as good as his other novels

    I loved The Kite Runner ams A Thousand Splendid Suns. I liked this book quite a bit, but I'd recommend reading the others first.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2014

    Fun read

    Normally not my genre but enjoyed it.

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  • Posted July 4, 2014

    I had never read Neil Gaiman's work before and it was enjoyable

    I had never read Neil Gaiman's work before and it was enjoyable and exciting.    He certainly knows how to evoke the emotions of the reader.  The story was strong and well developed, read smoothly and hooked the reader immediately.   I was drawn into the world of a seven year old boy, and I became afraid for him and his family.




    It is never really explained who the Hempstock family was or what they were, more to the point.    But they were neighbors and the only people our little boy trusted and felt comfortable with.   Without them, I doubt he would have survived his childhood.    And his childhood memories soon became jumbled with reality, never to be remembered correctly again.




    This was an extremely frightening and gripping read and it felt like I lived it with the main character.   I felt his angst, his fear, and his heartbreak.

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  • Posted June 13, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange fo

    I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.




    This was my first Neil Gaiman book and it was not at all what I expected. For whatever reason, I thought Gaiman wrote brooding social commentaries along the lines of Philip Roth that were rooted in the real world. This may be the case for his other books, but not so much with The Ocean At the End of the Lane (although social commentaries do exist). That said, I still really enjoyed this book. I read it in one sitting and was left pondering the philosophical questions it left me with for a long time after I put it down.




    In short, the book is about a man who goes to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Once he gets there, he’s drawn to the house at the end of the lane, although he’s not entirely sure why. Once there, he begins to remember the unsavory bits and pieces of his childhood that he had blocked from his memory, and it’s these memories that constitute the book itself.




    What I loved about this book, other than the story, of course, is that brought me back to a time when magic was real and out-of-the-ordinary things weren’t cause for alarm. I was able to to accept the unlikely events alongside the protagonist, an unnamed boy the age of seven. I remembered what it was like to think that monsters were real, the world was magical, and nothing bad could happen. I remembered the house on the corner that we were all afraid of and sleeping with the lights on because I didn’t trust my own imagination. I remembered all that, and more, because Gaiman transports the reader back to a time of childlike wonder.




    Under the surface, though, Gaiman paints a powerful, but subtle, social commentary on how temporary our existence in this fragile world is. He shines a light on the underbelly of human nature and takes jabs at our obsession with money. It’s not overt, but for the astute reader, it’s there – because beneath the magic and childlike wonder, an evil is lurking at the end of the lane.




    Allison @ The Book Wheel

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  • Posted May 9, 2014

    This was an interesting story and it was much different than I h

    This was an interesting story and it was much different than I had expected. I really liked parts of it, but I wasn't crazy about everything. I liked the concept of a pond that contained the universe inside. It kept a nice pace and interesting plot. Neil Gaiman is obviously a master of his craft. I like the way he looks at the world. It's about a child, but it's not a book for kids. It's an adult sized fairy tale with a small boy as the protagonist.

    Content: violence/scary scenes

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  • Posted May 8, 2014

    ¿The Ocean at the End of the Lane¿ has been my introduction to N

    “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” has been my introduction to Neil Gaiman, and to say that this book is unlike anything I have read (at least in recent memory) is a gross understatement. Simultaneously a modern fable, a reflection of childhood and the power of memory, and an engaging fantasy story, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” is a captivating tale worthy of discussion and analysis. It’s also the sort of book that reminds us why we read.


    Although relatively brief for a novel—Gaiman himself mentions that it began as a short story—it tells the complex story of a man who returns to his childhood village and recalls a series of events involving a suicidal lodger, an evil governess, and a magical family of women that forever changed his life.
    Without mentioning the specifics of the tale, I’ll state simply that Gaiman manages to tell an entertaining and thought-provoking story that gets to the root of some very profound questions about childhood, memory, reality, and human nature. If this all sounds like “heavy stuff” for what is arguably a children’s story, that’s exactly one of Gaiman’s major themes: Children are capable of far greater understanding, depth of emotion, and sacrifice than adults can imagine—indeed, they’re capable of the entire range of human experience and perhaps even more that is beyond adult perception. Gaiman implies that one of the great tragedies of adulthood is our loss of the ability to experience life with the wonder and intensity of childhood.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2014

    Good read

    Good read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2014

    Book Club Must

    This is an amazing read - First time I read Neil Gaiman - Enjoyed and will read more of his work.

    So many different places you can go as you read this - great mix of what is real, what is dream, what is imagination....

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  • Posted March 7, 2014

    This was my first encounter with Neil Gaiman, and I have to say:

    This was my first encounter with Neil Gaiman, and I have to say: I was mesmerized!  Gaiman’s voice is poetry with teeth.  Here, he creates a world of horror laced with starry magic and vast possibilities. 

     Our unnamed narrator is a 40-something man returning to the strange and gossamer memories of an event that occurred when he was a boy of seven.  Back then, magic creeps into his life after an opal miner commits suicide down the lane from his house, effectively stirring the attention of a dark force beyond the earthly borders of existence.  This force wants to feed greed and slowly poison humanity from the inside out.  But for all the conspiring darkness in creation, there is also light: 

    Meet Lettie, the mysterious girl who lives at the end of the lane, she’s eleven and has been for a very long time.  She’s the embodiment of childhood wisdom, both spritely and serious, and she can see all the mind-blowing layers of existence.  One might be tempted to call her a witch, but the powers stirring inside her are grander and more ancient that any pagan or human civilization; indeed, Lettie—along with her mother and grandmother, old Mrs. Hempstock, who was around for the Big Bang—harnesses the energy of creation itself.  Take, for instance, that pond behind the Hempstock’s farmhouse: shhhh, it’s really an ocean.  It’s what they used to cross into our world and it’s what connects them to a realm that is closer to heaven than to earth.  For them the moon is always full.  They have fields that grow kittens like carrots!  And yet they remain grounded, they are cozy and welcoming, and eating their warm porridge with blackberry jam is as much a comfort to our narrator as the magic they swathe him in.  So, when he wakes up one morning choking on a magic coin and goes to the Hempstocks for help, it feels quite natural for him to hold Lettie’s hand and follow her through the trees and wilds into a world of unadulterated imagination, a world of soul awakening.  Neither he nor Lettie expect anything to go wrong.  

     When they encounter the aforementioned dark force, Lettie sings strange words to bind the wonderfully creepy, grey-and-pink rag-like creature from doing any more harm.  This beguiling scene sets the tone for the entire tale, for the words Lettie summons are the first language, and anything spoken in this language becomes real.  How cool is that?  This concept speaks to me as a reader/writer.  I believe that language is what makes us human, I like to believe there is a reason why story-telling feels universal with a capital-U.  So, the idea that language is intimately linked to Creation electrified me with possibilities.   

    Of course, there’s more to this story than just that, and Lettie’s song does not go as expected.   A piece of the darkness cunningly hitches a ride home on our narrator—disguised as an eerie little worm burrowed in his heel!  Yep, in a delightful scene not for the squeamish, our narrator reels the parasite out of his foot and drops it down the drain…only to have the darkness reappear in the form of our narrator’s new nanny.  The whole family is under her spell, and only our narrator and the Hemstocks can see beyond the monster’s disguise. 

    The Hempstocks, especially Lettie, are determined to send the darkness back where it came from, but in a brilliant twist, childhood realities and childhood magic come head to head.  Because while the Hempstocks powers can snip and mend the very fabric of space and time, space and time still contains human rules and expectations, more specifically those of the parent.  As a child of seven, small and powerless on his own, our narrator is steered by the will of his father.  A father who, once a good man, has fallen under the spell of the new nanny and wants only what she wants: to contain and/or kill the boy who is actively trying to thwart her. 

    (SPOILERS:)

    Never fear—even as the darkness creeps and conspires, even as the father prepares the bathtub for drowning and the nanny seems to have won—because every child deserves a hero and Lettie is not about to let our narrator come to harm…even if this means summoning the aid of birdlike monsters who are bigger, meaner, and who (after eating up the nanny along with her spell over this world) ultimately corner our terrified (but brave) narrator in the fairy circle in his backyard.  He has something they want, something the worm left inside him: a portal in his heart that leads to the place beyond the ocean, a place he cannot be allowed free passage to, and the only way to rid him of it is to rip out his heart.  Wow, what a metaphor for the way real life (adult life) can tarnish the magic of childhood, making it impossible for us to ever go back.  Except in this story, it is possible.  Because Lettie means it when she promises to keep our narrator safe, and she defends him with her life.  Literally. 

    Well almost.  This is, after all, a tale where anything is possible.  

    To parallel the beauty of Lettie’s ancient language incantation at the beginning, at the end we finally see the wonder of her ocean.  After snipping and mending the moment of the narrator’s death into the moment of her own, Lettie’s body is returned to the pond and the placid waters become crashing waves.  They wash Lettie away, swallowing her—and for a moment our narrator—back into the womb of creation.  Lettie has yet to return from that place, but our narrator, despite the overwhelming desire to stay and lose himself into the wholeness of it all, is made to live his life.  

    As he leaves the Hempstock farm that final day when he was seven, the magic of what happened to him fades from his mind, but always lingers in his heart.  As he grows older he returns to the Hemstock farm from time to time, feeling drawn, feeling curious, a part of him wanting to find Lettie and know that her sacrifice wasn’t in vain, that he is living a life worthy of her.  Though she had yet to return, she will one day, and so he comes and goes, grows and lives, forgets the truth only to return to it again and again. 

    The Ocean at the End of the Lane was an experience in magic so convincing and so fluid from scene to scene, moment to moment, that finishing it was like waking from a dream where, for just a heartbeat, the mysteries of the universe were known to me. 

    What an extraordinary introduction to an extraordinary author!  I will definitely be reading more Gaiman. 

    Best Lines: “I have dreamed of that song, of the strange words to that simple rhyme-song, and on several occasions I have understood what she was saying, in my dreams.  In those dreams I spoke that language too, the first language, and I had dominion over the nature of all that was real. In my dream, it was the tongue of what is, and anything spoken in it becomes real, because nothing said in that language can be a lie.”

    “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, questioning 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...”

    “The second thing I thought was that I knew everything. Lettie Hempstock’s ocean flowed inside me, and it filled the entire universe, from Egg to Rose.  I knew that. I knew what Egg was—where the universe began, to

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  • Posted February 27, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This is not a book that does all your thinking for you. If you b

    This is not a book that does all your thinking for you. If you bring a good imagination and remember what it felt like as a child to accept the world as it appeared without a detailed explanation, you will like this book. I still wonder if perhaps there are country roads which dead-end at curious farm-houses inhabited by odd people. I like to think so. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    Fun book

    This is a great book for a quick, interesting read. I loved it, and found it interesting, creative and lively. I almost wish I could have crawled in and lived it.

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  • Posted February 21, 2014

    Quirky

    A little weird but kept my interest, actually read it straight through one night.

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  • Posted February 18, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    An exquisite story written by the master of wordsmiths, Neil Gaiman.

    Neil Gaiman is a legend in the literary world. His books are all smart, beautifully written and full of wonder. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is no exception. Admittedly, I've only read one other book by Gaiman, American Gods, and it's a very different sort of story than this one. I wasn't really sure what to expect from his YA, but it definitely wasn't this. Ocean might be a story written for kids, but it's undoubtedly one that's meant more for adults. There's a sadness and isolation to the book that goes hand in hand with the narrator's loss of innocence, with the pain of growing up.

    Like in most of Gaiman's other works, magic touches everything in Ocean. And like the background mythology, the magic here is old. There's a quietness, a subtlety to it which lends to the story's very dream-like quality. It also helps that Gaiman narrated the audiobook, so the story is read as it was meant to be read. The narration was like poetry, smooth and rhythmic, lulling the listening deeper and deeper into the story. Gaiman is a wordsmith like no other. His words are so simple yet effective, stimulating to every one of the senses. And the story easily flows from one event to the next, the moments ebbing and flowing like the soft breeze over a gentle sea.

    One of the coolest things about this book was the presence of such strong female figures, taken in the form of the Hempstock women. I really loved the mother/maiden/crone dynamic between them. Honestly, they were the ones that drew me in and they were the ones that kept me riveted to the page. I guess the only thing that really threw me was the ending. I read this book over a week ago and now that I've had time to digest it, I still don't know what to think. It raised more questions than answers and lacked and overall feeling of completeness. These are just a few of the questions I still have: Did the boy take away anything at all from his experience? If not, what was the point? Was he worth Lettie's existence? Lettie thought so, but I'm not so sure.

    Despite my reservations about the ending, I was really impressed by Ocean. It's a story unlike any other---dark, terrifying and wonderful---one that's beautifully written and superbly spoken by the man, the master, Neil Gaiman.

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  • Posted February 14, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I'm glad I moved this up to the top of my reading list. Neil Gai

    I'm glad I moved this up to the top of my reading list. Neil Gaiman is an enchanting weaver of worlds and the stories within those worlds. He is somehow able to draw upon ancient knowledge that never was and make it seem present, potent, universal and real.

    It would be foolish of me to try to describe this story. You can read the cover blurb and other reviews to get a flavor of that. But those descriptions are only shadows of the experience of getting lost in these pages of lost childhood and magic. What is real? What is memory? What is imagination? What is time? These are all questions that swirl through this book and are never directly addressed or answered. Or maybe they are.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

    Great read!

    My favorite Neil Gaiman book to date.

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  • Posted February 10, 2014

    ¿Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things

    “Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren’t.”

    I almost gave up on this book, but luckily for me once I got to 25% the story started drawing me in. As much as I enjoyed it, I have to admit that I didn’t grasp the message I’m positive is buried in there somewhere. Yet I can’t argue that this was an unforgettable read that thrilled me and simultaneously sent shivers down my spine. 

    ~I was a seven-year-old boy, and my feet were scratched and bleeding. I had just wet myself. And the thing that floated above me was huge and greedy, and it wanted to take me to the attic, and when it tired of me it would make my daddy kill me.~ 

    I honestly don’t have much to say about this novel. I was, again, utterly impressed with Gaiman’s imaginative writing and the mesmerizing, yet darkly terrifying, world to which he transports the reader. Sadly, I couldn’t get a hold on any of the characters, but I was just as terrified by Ursula Monkton as our seven-year-old protagonist was of her.

    ~Ursula Monkton smiled and the lightnings wreathed and writhed about her. She was power incarnate, standing in the crackling air. She was the storm, she was the lightning, she was the adult world with all its power and all its secrets and all its foolish casual cruelty.~

    I haven’t yet read Gaiman’s Coraline, but I have seen Tim Burton’s interpretation of it, and thus I can safely say that, bar the adult content, this book has the same feel to it that Coraline has. This is something Gaiman does particularly well. Scaring the heck out of the reader. I wanted to be away from the monster, and like the MC, I felt safe with Lettie Hempstock and her mother, Ginnie, and Lettie’s grandmother. Now any author who can continuously, chapter after chapter, make me feel the same fear the main character feels, is an author worth his salt. And let me tell you, Ursula Monkton is not the only monster to fear in this book.

    ~Ursula Monkton was an adult. It did not matter, at that moment, that she was every monster, every witch, every nightmare made flesh. She was also an adult, and when adults fight children, adults always win.~ 

    Though the eighties and nineties are closer to what I remember of my childhood, Gaiman also manages to take me down memory lane to my own childhood. Of course, my childhood experiences doesn’t include anything as remotely frightening as what the narrator briefly experienced as a seven-year-old, but still I could identify with some of his daily rituals. 

    ~I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.~ 

    All in all, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was less impressive than I thought it would be and the characters didn’t invoke any of the feels I was looking for. Still, it was a unique experience and lived up to my expectations of infinite creativity and incongruity which I’ve grown accustomed to finding in a Neil Gaiman book. I would recommend this exceptional book to anyone looking for a mind-tingling read! 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2014

    Lol imean lots of love dude read me

    I want nook sex soso bad

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    Good, but too short!

    A good book for an afternoon read in front of the fireplace.

    O

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