The Ocean At The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

15783514This was my first Neil Gaiman book.  I didn’t know if I would even write my thoughts about it, because I feel sure that everyone and their dog have already read it.  But, I thought maybe I would, since my thoughts might be a bit different from what seems to be the popular opinion. Most people seemed to have loved this book, but, for me, it was only good, not great.  I guess the world of the supernatural is not really my thing.  It is creative and imaginative, but I felt like I was reading a children’s story containing adult themes.  There are, however, several things I did like about it.

1. Maurice Sendak’s quote at the beginning of the book.

I remember my own childhood vividly… I knew terrible things.  But I knew I musn’t let adults know I knew.  It would scare them.             – Maurice Sendak

Are children capable of knowing more than adults?  Can they handle fear better than us?

“I’m going to tell you something important.  Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either.  Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing.  Inside, they look just like they always have.  Like they did when they were your age.  The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups.  Not one, in the whole wide world.”

2. The little boy.  The little boy is what kept me reading the book.

3. The Hempstock women.  I loved the idea that they have been around since the beginning of time, and were everything the little boy needed; comfort, security, good cooks, and miraculous fixers of the things gone wrong.

“Men!” hooted Old Mrs. Hempstock.  “I dunno what blessed good a man would be!  Nothing a man could do around this farm that I can’t do twice as fast and five times as well.”

4. The idea that giving people what they want is not always best.

Everything here is so weak, little girl.  Everything breaks so easily.  They want such simple things.  I will take all I want from this world, like a child stuffing its fat little face with blackberries from a bush.

5. The idea that our world is but a grain in the desert.

They could have hurt you, child, and it would have meant nothing.  They could have hurt this world without anything being said-it’s only a world, after all, and they’re just sand grains in the desert, worlds.

6. I liked the way the boy/man could both remember and forget the events that happened to him in this story.  A smooth transition that worked well, allowing us to be told the story, but having it go no further than that.

Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good.

7. This story had a good, satisfying ending.  And one more good quote:

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 found joy in the things that made me happy.

I think this is the secret.  Being able to find joy in small things, even while the world is falling down around you.  We will never be able to escape hardship, but there will always be something to enjoy; a book, a friend, a parent, a sibling, something good to eat, a tree, a flower, singing, telling stories.  Children are good at this.  What is the secret to holding on to this ability?  What do you think of this book, or other Neil Gaiman books?

 

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25 thoughts on “The Ocean At The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

  1. whatmeread says:

    I haven’t read this one yet either. People seem to be raving about it, but I keep thinking I would not like it as much. Hard to tell without reading it, though.

  2. Ngan R. says:

    This was my first Neil Gaiman book also, and I was surprised by it. I really enjoy books about fantasy/magical realism, and for that reason, I enjoyed this book. I did like the message of finding joy in the small things, and though the ending actually confused me, leaving me to wonder what really happened, I did find satisfaction in the not knowing, too, because it made me suspend my beliefs. An interesting read, but I would be hesitant to pick up another Neil Gaiman book any time soon.

    • Naomi says:

      I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this book, but I was curious because of all the fuss about it. Sometimes I avoid books with a lot of fuss, but I usually just get too curious!

  3. Rory says:

    I think you’re right, children are much better at this than adults. I sincerely wish I was better at it myself. I worry and stress very easily and it does take a toll. I’m trying to buy a car right now, if you can imagine how that’s going. (It’s awful, truly awful.)

    I haven’t read this one, but I really did love American Gods.

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks for the recommendation- I really would like to try another of his books.

      I can imagine how awful it would be to buy a car. Being a grown-up is no fun!

  4. Sarah says:

    The only other books I had read by him were Coraline and another book for kids, I forget the title of (Mads and I liked both of them). I did NOT enjoy this book much at all. I was bored and uninterested in the whole thing and found myself trying to skim it so I could move on to something else. My brother felt the same way about others he has read, including American Gods. I won’t bother reading more I don’t think 🙂

  5. lauratfrey says:

    I feel EXACTLY the same way and feel like a freak because everyone freaked out about it so much last year. I felt like I read a kid’s book. I may still try some of his other stuff, but this book reminded me not to get so swept up in hype.

  6. writereads says:

    I haven’t read it yet, though I do tend to like Gaiman’s stuff as I am a fantasy geek. Everyone talks about American Gods, and while I liked it, my faves of his novels were actually Neverwhere and Stardust. But truly, his best work will always be The Sandman graphic novel series he wrote. It is a brilliant creation. I tend to think that, much like Philip K. Dick, he is a man revered more for his ideas than for his actual writing style, but that could just be me.
    I think I’m gonna like this one, as I’m a sucker for adult explorations of childhood so thank you for your review as it made me more excited to read the book! 🙂 – Tania

  7. Cecilia says:

    I’m glad you did write about the book, Naomi; it’s always helpful to get a different take on a crazy- popular book. Like you I am not really into fantasy/supernatural stories and I also almost picked this one up because everyone was raving about it. Then a friend of mine who is a big Neil Gaiman fan gave it a “meh” rating. But I love the quotes that you listed here. Maybe if I adjust my expectations going in I might like it..?

    • Naomi says:

      When I read the book, I didn’t know anything about it, so maybe if you go into it knowing what it’s like and with lower expectations, you may like it fine. I did like the writing, and it had some nice passages. Also, I was curious about the ending, especially since I liked the boy and felt protective of him.

      Welcome back!

  8. ebookclassics says:

    I haven’t read anything by Gaiman before but I have this book on my TBR. From reading other blog reviews, it seems readers either absolutely adore him or rather give him a pass, so I’m curious to know which camp I will belong to when I finally read his work.

  9. Melinda says:

    This one is going on my TBR, or it must be there already since the time it got so many positive reviews. Thanks for the reminder. I’ve never read any Gaiman before.

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