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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

4.1 580
by Neil Gaiman

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A brilliantly imaginative and poignant fairy tale from the modern master of wonder and terror, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman’s first new novel for adults since his #1 New York Times bestseller Anansi Boys.

This bewitching and harrowing tale of mystery and survival, and memory and magic, makes the impossible


A brilliantly imaginative and poignant fairy tale from the modern master of wonder and terror, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman’s first new novel for adults since his #1 New York Times bestseller Anansi Boys.

This bewitching and harrowing tale of mystery and survival, and memory and magic, makes the impossible all too real...

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Gaiman here departs somewhat from his previous books, instead featuring greater emphasis on investigation of the human condition and a more subdued fantasy element. The main character revisits his boyhood, particularly a series of formative events surrounding his friendship with a girl named Lettie Hempstock. The plot rapidly evolves from reminiscent to scary to downright life-threatening, with profound reflections on mortality inherent in the drama. In this ominous environment, seeming evil is explained as a misplaced desire to please, and the ocean at the end of the lane is a liquid knowledge bath transcending space and time that helps rescue the boy. In fact, Lettie is one of the keepers of the ocean, and she and her family represent caretakers who manage the equilibrium of our world and protect the hapless. As we learn the full extent of our narrator's relationship with the Hempstocks, the absolute necessity of the act of forgetting becomes clear. VERDICT Scott Smith's The Ruins meets Astrid Lingren's Pippi Longstocking. A slim and magical feat of meaningful storytelling genius. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/12.]—Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos Lib., CA
The Washington Post - Keith Donohue
…marks the return of one of the fantastic mythmakers of our time…Gaiman is a magpie, a maker of collages, creating something new and original out of the bits and pieces of his wide reading of myth and folklore…This is a novel of nostos—that ineffable longing for home, for the sensations and feelings of childhood, when the world was frightening and magical all at once, when anything and everything were possible…The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a small thing with much joy and heartache, sacrifice and friendship, beautifully crafted and as lonesome as the ocean.
Charles DeLint
“When I finally closed the last page of this slim volume it was with the realization that I’d just finished one of those uncommon perfect books that come along all too rarely in a reader’s life.”
The New York Times Book Review - Benjamin Percy
…Gaiman is especially accomplished in navigating the cruel, uncertain dreamscape of childhood…His mind is a dark fathomless ocean, and every time I sink into it, this world fades, replaced by one far more terrible and beautiful in which I will happily drown.
Booklist (starred review) on OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE
“Gaiman mines mythological typology--the three-foldgoddess, the water of life (the pond, actually an ocean)--and his own childhood milieu to build the cosmology and theater of a story he tells more gracefully than any he’s told since Stardust...[a] lovely yarn.”
“This slim novel, gorgeously written, keeps its talons in you long after you’ve finished.”
“In Gaiman’s latest romp through otherworldly adventure, a young boy discovers a neighboring family’s supernatural secret. Soon his innocence is tested by ancient, magical forces, and he learns the power of true friendship. The result is a captivating read, equal parts sweet, sad, and spooky.”
“His prose is simple but poetic, his world strange but utterly believable—if he was South American we would call this magic realism rather than fantasy.”
“Entirely absorbing and wholly moving...a haunting tale.”
“[W]orthy of a sleepless night . . . a fairy tale for adults that explores both innocence lost and the enthusiasm for seeing what’s past one’s proverbial fence . . . Gaiman is a master of creating worlds just a step to the left of our own.”
Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE
“Remarkable . . . wrenchingly, gorgeously elegiac. . . . [I]n The Ocean at the End of the Lane, [Gaiman] summons up childhood magic and adventure while acknowledging their irrevocable loss, and he stitches the elegiac contradictions together so tightly that you won’t see the seams.”
“[A] compelling tale for all ages . . . entirely absorbing and wholly moving.”
“[A] story concerning the bewildering gulf between the innocent and the authoritative, the powerless and the powerful, the child and the adult. . . . Ocean is a novel to approach without caution; the author is clearly operating at the height of his career.”
Bookish (Houston Chronicle book blog)
“’The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ is fun to read, filled with his trademarked blend of sinister whimsy. Gaiman’s writing is like dangerous candy—you’re certain there’s ground glass somewhere, but it just tastes so good!”
Laura Miller
“The impotence of childhood is often the first thing sentimental adults forget about it; Gaiman is able to resurrect, with brutal immediacy, the abject misery of being unable to control one’s own life.”
“Ocean has that nearly invisible prose that keeps the focus firmly on the storytelling, and not on the writing. . . . This simple exterior hides something much more interesting; in the same way that what looks like a pond can really be an ocean.”
“Mr. Gaiman labels [his novel] ‘for all ages,’ which is exactly right. It has grief, fear and regret, as well as love and awe-adult emotions, but children feel them too…. [L]ike all Mr. Gaiman’s work, this is fantasy of the very best.”
“[W]ry and freaky and finally sad. . . . This is how Gaiman works his charms. . . . He crafts his stories with one eye on the old world, on Irish folktales and Robin Hood and Camelot, and the other on particle physics and dark matter.”
Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee
“Gaiman has crafted an achingly beautiful memoir of an imagination and a spellbinding story that sets three women at the center of everything. . . .[I]t’s a meditation on memory and mortality, a creative reflection on how the defining moments of childhood can inhabit the worlds we imagine.”

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

By Neil Gaiman

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Neil Gaiman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-225565-5

Nobody came to my seventh birthday party.
There was a table laid with jellies and trifles, with a party hat
beside each place, and a birthday cake with seven candles on it in the
center of the table. The cake had a book drawn on it, in icing. My
mother, who had organized the party, told me that the lady at the
bakery said that they had never put a book on a birthday cake before,
and that mostly for boys it was footballs or spaceships. I was their
first book.
When it became obvious that nobody was coming, my mother
lit the seven candles on the cake, and I blew them out. I ate a slice of
the cake, as did my little sister and one of her friends (both of them
attending the party as observers, not participants) before they fled,
giggling, to the garden.
Party games had been prepared by my mother but, because
nobody was there, not even my sister, none of the party games were
played, and I unwrapped the newspaper around the pass-the-parcel
gift myself, revealing a blue plastic Batman figure. I was sad that
nobody had come to my party, but happy that I had a Batman figure,
and there was a birthday present waiting to be read, a boxed set of
the Narnia books, which I took upstairs. I lay on the bed and lost
myself in the stories.
I liked that. Books were safer than other people anyway.

10 Neil Gaiman
My parents had also given me a Best of Gilbert and Sullivan LP, to
add to the two that I already had. I had loved Gilbert and Sullivan
since I was three, when my father's youngest sister, my aunt, took me
to see Iolanthe, a play filled with lords and fairies. I found the existence
and nature of the fairies easier to understand than that of the lords.
My aunt had died soon after, of pneumonia, in the hospital.
That evening my father arrived home from work and he brought
a cardboard box with him. In the cardboard box was a soft-haired
black kitten of uncertain gender, whom I immediately named Fluffy,
and which I loved utterly and wholeheartedly.
Fluffy slept on my bed at night. I talked to it, sometimes, when
my little sister was not around, half-expecting it to answer in a
human tongue. It never did. I did not mind. The kitten was affec-
tionate and interested and a good companion for someone whose
seventh birthday party had consisted of a table with iced biscuits and
a blancmange and cake and fifteen empty folding chairs.
I do not remember ever asking any of the other children in my
class at school why they had not come to my party. I did not need
to ask them. They were not my friends, after all. They were just the
people I went to school with.
I made friends slowly, when I made them.
I had books, and now I had my kitten. We would be like Dick
Whittington and his cat, I knew, or, if Fluffy proved particularly in-
telligent, we would be the miller's son and Puss-in-Boots. The kitten
slept on my pillow, and it even waited for me to come home from
school, sitting on the driveway in front of my house, by the fence,
until, a month later, it was run over by the taxi that brought the opal
miner to stay at my house.
I was not there when it happened.
I got home from school that day, and my kitten was not waiting

The Ocean at the End of the Lane 11
to meet me. In the kitchen was a tall, rangy man with tanned skin
and a checked shirt. He was drinking coffee at the kitchen table, I
could smell it. In those days all coffee was instant coffee, a bitter
dark brown powder that came out of a jar.
“I'm afraid I had a little accident arriving here,” he told me,
cheerfully. “But not to worry.” His accent was clipped, unfamiliar: it
was the first South African accent I had heard.
He, too, had a cardboard box on the table in front of him.
“The black kitten, was he yours?” he asked.
“It's called Fluffy,” I said.
“Yeah. Like I said. Accident coming here. Not to worry. Dis-
posed of the corpse. Don't have to trouble yourself. Dealt with the
matter. Open the box.”
He pointed to the box. “Open it,” he said.
The opal miner was a tall man. He wore jeans and checked shirts
every time I saw him, except the last. He had a thick chain of pale
gold around his neck. That was gone the last time I saw him, too.
I did not want to open his box. I wanted to go off on my own.
I wanted to cry for my kitten, but I could not do that if anyone else
was there and watching me. I wanted to mourn. I wanted to bury my
friend at the bottom of the garden, past the green-grass fairy ring,
into the rhododendron bush cave, back past the heap of grass cut-
tings, where nobody ever went but me.
The box moved.
“Bought it for you,” said the man. “Always pay my debts.”
I reached out, lifted the top flap of the box, wondering if this
was a joke, if my kitten would be in there. Instead a ginger face stared
up at me truculently.
The opal miner took the cat out of the box.

12 Neil Gaiman
He was a huge, ginger-striped tomcat, missing half an ear. He
glared at me angrily. This cat had not liked being put in a box. He
was not used to boxes. I reached out to stroke his head, feeling un-
faithful to the memory of my kitten, but he pulled back so I could
not touch him, and he hissed at me, then stalked off to a

Excerpted from The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Copyright © 2013 Neil Gaiman. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


Meet the Author

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.

Brief Biography

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date of Birth:
November 10, 1960
Place of Birth:
Portchester, England
Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 580 reviews.
ABookAWeekES More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a surprise when I first saw the book, not because of its appealing tittle but because of it's length. I had come into the book expecting a long novel, what with such an intriguing tittle and all. Now that I finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane I am even more surprised that I could find so much in such few pages. I often found myself at mid-sentence, lost in my own thoughts and an endless stream of ideas an reflections that spurred from something I had read in the book that caught my mind. Never in the countless books I have read have I come across the feeling I got with this book. The pages contain a feel of wisdom about our existence that catch you unprepared yet leave you no choice but to follow stop and reflect even at the most trivial things. It was a beautiful experience that I highly recommend.
j_anfinson More than 1 year ago
After reading Gaimans other novels, I was excited to hear of this new one. It's on the short end of the scale for a novel, length wise, but incredible nonetheless. From the wonders and possibilities of childhood, to the adult elements, I found the prose just as magical as the story. I look forward to whatever Mr. Gaiman can dream up next. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first Neil Gaiman book I've had the pleasure of reading. And what a pleasure it was! This story has great mystery that keeps you turning the pages. The characters are well developed and I loved the plot.
CaptainDyne More than 1 year ago
From start to finish, this was an amazing story. I expect nothing less from Gaiman. I loved it so much, in fact, I'm re-reading it right now. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A world you'll get lost in, willingly. worth all the hype his books always seem to garner. You could read it in one sitting, huddled under a blanket, by flashlight.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sometimes, a book comes along that is quite different than everything else you read. This is that book. It's a small book, one that I read in a couple sittings, and really, I wouldn't have it any other way. Becuase for those several hours in my life, I was somehwere else. Rarely can a book capture hot only your interest, but your heart, your spirit. All too easy we forget what it's like to be young and innocent. A time when believing comes naturally. There aren't apt words to describe this book, but I'll try anyways. This book is mystical, and heart-warming, and so much more. It brought me back into my childhood, when life was simpler. If you haven't read this book, read it...now. If you're weary to spend this much money on a pretty small book, I do understand, but I can tell you sometimes the money does not compare to the experiecne you get. This book is simply magical, and I got reccomend it enough.
schnappy More than 1 year ago
This was my first Neil Gaiman novel, and will likely be my last. I just did not like this book at all. It's marketed as an adult fantasy novel, but it's novella length and read like a children's story. The narration was flat and I never connected with or even liked any of the characters. I wish things in the story had been explained; I left the novel feeling like I didn't know any more about what had occurred than I did during it. If it hadn't been so short, I'd never have been able to finish it.
Kelly2x More than 1 year ago
I guess this is for fans of Mr Gaiman's work, but as my first experience, it left me shaking my head. I didn't know anything about the book, just took a chance based on praises from readers, but this wasn't my style. Bizarre, weird, and more like a fairy tale or a nightime story, this mercifully short book felt more like a chore than a good beach read. Sorry I didn't like it as much as his fans.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was definitely not worth the money. It left me with more questions than answers and was disappointingly anticlimactic. Not sure what the point of the story was.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantasy at it's best. Lovely little story about a 7 yr old boy and his new friend who lives at the end of the lane and whose pond is actually an ocean. Will not give away any of the story but it is charming. Very quick read too!
RibbonRider More than 1 year ago
Love the writing! Wish this story were longer so I could keep reading. My new favorite author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book after the salesperson told me it had been on the best seller list for months. While the writing is quite good, the subject matter leaves a great deal to be desired. I kept reading it to the end, not because I was enjoying it, but because I was hoping there would be some substance and interest to it. As other reviewers wrote, I can't believe it's been on the best seller list at all, much less for such a long time.
bonnieCA More than 1 year ago
This is the best fantasy I've read since the Harry Potter series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely beautiful.  Gaiman's style is reminiscent of George MacDonald, but definitely a bit more modern. This is the 3rd of Gaiman's novels I have read, and it left me with that joyous ache in my heart that I would get when I read Lewis, Tolkien, or MacDonald as a child; that ache for another world of sorts. A really beautiful story. :)
TheStickler More than 1 year ago
Another Neil Gaiman winner; at just over 150 pages (Nook), MR. Gaiman has produced a world that is so unique as to enthrall me like a fairy tale did when I was young. It left me wanting oceans more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read. Wish it lasted longer!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read many of Neil Gaiman's books. They are often jarring and thought-provoking, but this one felt real. I guess it resonated with me. It's one of those books you have to stop and think about after you've read it, because it was so true and the real world can't be just yet. So yeah, basically, kudos to a book well-written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"I would love to be your mate.." she smiled
Reader42AS More than 1 year ago
He also writes for the TV series Dr. Who. Some of the best stories of the modern era of the show were written gy Neil Gaiman.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
Perspective can be an elusive prospect.  One can “lose” perspective for any number of reasons; perspectives shift with new information or points-of-view, a new perspective will arise on occasion – seemingly of its own accord.   Neil Gaiman is a master of using the slippery nature of perspective to create a story that is, at once, vastly expansive and impossibly intimate.  He shows this talent at its finest in this physically small, but literarily massive, novel.   A man in his forties returns to his childhood home for the funeral of a close family member.  He journeys, lured by smoky memories, to the Hempstock Farmstead, a place he knew in his childhood but had forgotten until he is standing beside “the ocean.”  His recalling of how he met the members of Hempstock farm and what caused that meeting to occur is the story of this book.  To detail the plot would be to undermine: the experience of living the book, the recalling of the fun and danger of being a child and the validation of what was under your bed after the lights were turned off really did exist. This is not a horror book.  It is more a book of myths played out in present day.  The tension the reader may experience in reading is rooted in the memories of “almost” seeing the “bad thing” in the closet as we were trying to go to sleep.  Those memories are balanced by the comfort in knowing that there was always someone nearby who would make the dark places safe. Those “almost” creatures who lived just beyond our perception, seen only as void or in the motion they create in passing are the most frightening, having a friend who can define those fears and lend us courage enough to face them bring to mind the friends who will never leave our lives.  Such is the depth and color of this novel.  The hero finds such a person in Lettie Hempstock. There is much religion within these pages - Celtic Myths are present, pagan practices are evident, the “new” religion lurks in the corners and the dynamics of a curious mind offer a flavor of creativity that is near a practice of faith.  The Ocean comes to represent the timelessness of Life (an event that spurred the language of religion and spiritual practices) and the author paints such a vivid picture of that encounter it comes near to stealing this reader’s breath;  “I felt the coldness of the water – if it was water – pour into my nose and my throat, felt it fill my lungs, but that was all it did. It did not hurt me. “I thought, This is the kind of water you can breathe. I thought, Perhaps, there is a secret to breathing water, something simple that everyone could do, if only they knew. Lettie Hempstock’s ocean flowed inside me, and it filled the entire universe, . . . ” (p. 142-3). The brilliance of this book is found in its ability to pull the reader into a world that began when we were children and allows us to hold those cherished days close once again.  The book plows into areas of the reader’s mind that were allowed to become fallow because adults “know better” than to believe “such rubbish,” waters the seeds found there and cause the flowers of our childhood to blossom again.  A delightful walk in a beautiful meadow is thereby created.
ChristineyReads More than 1 year ago
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars I honestly didn’t know how I was going to react to this mainly because I have never finished a Neil Gaiman book (I know, blasphemy!). But, I have to say that I really enjoyed reading this. First, for an adult fantasy book, the protagonist is a child and Neil Gaiman does a wonderful job of portraying the story from a child’s point of view. There are some moments in the book (I don’t want to write spoilers) where the content is really ”adult” and we, as readers, are able to pick up on it based on the innocent observation of our main character. I think that alone speaks for Neil’s writing abilities. As for the book itself, it is really short and it’s really engrossing. I started reading it out of guilt (since I have a stack of books that I’ve been neglecting due to studying and other obligations) and I couldn’t put it down until I was done reading. It is extremely well-written and it’s very easy to get lost in his words and the story that he tells. The best part is that, even though this book is fantasy, it doesn’t shove the fantasy elements into your face (does that make sense!?) which I love since fantasy is one of the harder genres to get into since you have to familiarize yourself with the world first. The ending was very bittersweet. Our protagonist returns to his homeland and all the events that are related to his adventure is given “adult” explanations that make perfect sense. He goes to see Lettie (I am holding back tears and resisting the urge to rant) and, while reading, I swear I was about to cry and not for a good reason. Personally, I thought that Neil Gaiman picked a perfect ending. Granted it’s not your typical happily-ever-after but I thought that it suited the story very well. I had to chop off half a star though mainly because I thought the way the climax was handled was way too convenient. I personally hated the antagonist and thought that she was a perfect villain and the way that she was ultimately defeated and how the story ended disappointed me. Overall, a great book to read and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read it. Best of all, it’s in a small, digestible chunk so you can be sure that you won’t have to wait long to finish it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in two nights. It is a nice short read, however I find myself trying to decipher what I just read. Honestly that's not what I find enjoyable. Perhaps if I had read this in a book club and had others to discuss it with.