Book Review – The Ocean at the End of the Lane

  • Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
  • Author: Neil Gaiman
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/18/2014

Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is simply a beautiful story. Hauntingly, achingly beautiful. It’s a fairy tale for adults, and I’m not just saying that because it was the catch phase for Gaiman’s Stardust – this book does what a good fairy story or fantasy, or any really good book does – it pulls you in, and immerses you in a world that isn’t quite our world but is close. Every time I opened this book I was immediately pulled in, no matter what else was going on at the time – family members watching TV, noise from the street, a few rainstorms – everything faded away when I read this book. It was totally magical.

The story is a simple one – a man returns home for his father’s funeral. But returning home awakens memories, memories of a not quite happy, and as it turns out, rather unusual, childhood. But to say more would spoil the joy of this incredible novella – and it really is something to experience for oneself.

About halfway through this book it did remind me of the classic children’s book, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. But that is not a criticism – it’s a complement. Terebithia is one of those classics that every child really must read. Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane not only needs to be read by children, but especially needs to be read by adults. It’s just a marvelous experience of a book.

Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane is very atmospheric. It’s driven more by atmosphere than either plot or character. Also, although the story is set in rural Sussex England, somehow, while reading the book, that detail tended to slip my mind – to me the story could have been set in a small Midwestern town – in Iowa, or Michigan, or Minnesota, or Ohio, or Indiana – it just felt very universal, as a good fairy tale should.

This is just a beautiful book. I don’t give five star ratings often – this is just about as close to perfect as it gets. Highly recommended.