The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Book - 2013 | First edition.
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A Globe & Mail 100 Selection

A major new work from "a writer to make readers rejoice" (Minneapolis Star Tribune)-- a moving story of memory, magic, and survival

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie--magical, comforting, wise beyond her years--promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins, [2013]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2013
ISBN: 9780062255655
Branch Call Number: GAI
Fantasy G PBK
Characteristics: 181 pages


From Library Staff

Join Neil Gaiman for a tale of a lonely boy, magical neighbours and terrifying forest spirits. This is Gaiman at his best - dotting the British landscape with myth and fairy.

The author does a wonderful job of narrating his short novel and conjures nostalgia for childhood bedside stories. Hav... Read More »

For some reason this book really reminded me of a wrinkle in time.

List - Rena's Staff Picks
renabackstrom Apr 29, 2014

I love fables and fairytales that are written for adults and this though it is about a child is definitely an adult fairytale. Gaiman is expert at taking us beyond the normal bounds of our imaginations to new worlds! This is an excellent read.

bwortman Sep 13, 2013

Whimsical, lyrical, and deliciously creepy. Gaiman creates a wonderful tale in rural England with an endearing narrator stuck in a conflict with things far beyond his comprehension and far darker than any child's imagining. The story itself is simple but the observations interspersed throughout t... Read More »

From the critics

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JCLIanH Jun 11, 2018

A truly beautiful and moving piece of writing. Gaiman's audiobook narration is a masterclass in storytelling, and really highlights the gorgeous prose that makes him one of the greats. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is full of so much wonder and weirdness and pure soul.

JCLAndrewE May 07, 2018

If you want a short introduction to Neil Gaiman's writing and whimsy, look no further. This is a fun and tight little novel about growing up, magic, good/evil, and how decisions follow us through our lives.

Apr 04, 2018

No better narrorator than the author himself. He takes you to another world that you won't want to leave!

Mar 19, 2018

So imaginative and creepy! I felt like a little kid again.

ArapahoeSiddra Feb 22, 2018

My first Neil Gaimen audiobook. Mentally frightening. It made me feel like a small child afraid of the dark and the shadows on the walls. I first took a listen to see if it would be good for my 10 year old (I don't think so...). There are some parts that really stick with you. Maybe you forget them during your day. Until you see them again in your nightmares.

Dec 25, 2017

A fantastic tale that weaves mysticism with a British rural setting.

Sep 26, 2017

If a book has a weird title one can reasonably expect weird content. This book's content is so strange that I wonder about the sanity of the author.

Sep 25, 2017

Although this book won many fantasy awards, I had a hard time getting into the novel. It's written from the viewpoint of a man who's returned home for a funeral and visits his old childhood haunts. The nameless narrator tells the story in the first person as he remembers his lonely childhood, difficult father, and the escapist world of books. When he meets Lettie Hempstock, his world takes frightening turns until he finds his way home again. This is the selected title for the September 2017 Willa Cather Book Club.

SCL_Justin Aug 05, 2017

The Ocean At The End of The Lane is a Neil Gaiman book for adults, but it reminded me much more of Coraline or The Graveyard Book than American Gods.

Part of that is because of its small scale. There’s an author whose father has died and on his visit home for the funeral he stops by a neighbour’s farm. This prompts recollection of the story of the opal miner who was their lodger when he was seven, which is a story he’d forgotten. The story involves a creature giving people money and seducing his father so that he will never be able to get help.

I liked the story, it was beautiful and Gaimany. I kind of feel bad for saying it but I’d hoped for something more substantial.

Jul 20, 2017

I'm beginning to think Magical Realism isn't my thing. While I really enjoyed Gaiman's other works Coraline and Stardust, this one just didn't do anything for me. I have several theories why.
I couldn't decide whether this book is metaphorical or literal. And I know that's what Gaiman wanted. And I really don't like that. We don't know whether all the magical inter-dimensional things happened, or the unnamed narrator made it up to deal with his abuse, negligence, the suicide, the death of his kitten, the bullying and his father's affair. Do all the Hemstocks exist? At least one does, we know that for sure. If this book is strictly metaphorical, it's awfully pretentious, and it makes me like it even less. I feel like I should be reading this in high school Lit class and listing out the symbolism of the bucket, the ocean, and the canvas that was Ursula. I think more of the question is, why does this book exist? What was Gaiman trying to say? I don't care for a book where I have to figure things out for myself. If I wanted to do that, I'd write my own story.
The very fact that the main character goes unnamed grinds my gears even more. We're supposed to see ourselves in his seven year old self, I suppose. Not a fan of that. Give me solid character with a name that stands on his own that I don't have to wear like a mask. This isn't a self help book, and I shouldn't have to decipher what color my parachute is.
Now, the positives. It was wonderfully original- and in a world of re-makes and sequels, that's an awesome thing to see, and I must give him kudos for that. Also, making women the heroines of the story. The third is his writing style. Regardless of the story confusing me, the writing had a way of keeping me going when I honestly wanted to stop. The briefness of the novel also encouraged me to keep going, as I knew it had to end shortly and it wouldn't keep going.
All in all, just a weird story that I couldn't get into or figure out the point of. I could sit and hash out what everything meant, and how it compared to my own life... but this isn't a psychology or Lit class, and I just don't care enough to do that. This will be my last Gaiman for awhile, if ever.

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Add a Quote

ArapahoeMaryA Jan 28, 2017

Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.

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.

Jun 13, 2015

"You don't pass or fail at being a person, dear." -- Ginnie Hempstock

roropan Jun 18, 2014

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.

JCLChrisK Sep 23, 2013

I liked myths. They weren't adult stories and they weren't children's stories. They were better than that. They just were.

JCLChrisK Sep 21, 2013

I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.

JCLChrisK Sep 21, 2013

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.

JCLChrisK Sep 21, 2013

Nobody actually looks like what they really are on the inside. You don't. I don't. People are much more complicated than that. It's true of everybody.

JCLChrisK Sep 21, 2013

Oh, monsters are scared. That's why they're monsters.

JCLChrisK Sep 21, 2013

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.

JCLChrisK Sep 21, 2013

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.

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Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

Feb 01, 2017

bcornelius thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

ArapahoeRich Aug 04, 2016

ArapahoeRich thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Jul 24, 2015

michelle_raddie thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Jun 13, 2015

DouglasLinn thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

Jan 30, 2015

newanto thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

roropan Jun 18, 2014

roropan thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

carterasm1 Jan 08, 2014

carterasm1 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Jul 07, 2013

pagetraveler thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 12 and 99

Jun 19, 2013

jkeeg thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Summary

Jun 13, 2015

An unnamed protagonist returns to his childhood home upon his fathers funeral and recounts a fantastic tale of imagination and magic about the Hempstock's farm. The Hempstocks were his neighbors growing up and he befriended the 11 year old Lettie. It turns out the Hempstocks are much more than neighbors.

mvkramer Oct 21, 2013

A man returns to his childhood home for a funeral, and suddenly finds himself remembering the strange events of his childhood -- when he was seven, and met Lettie Hempstock. That year, an unfortunate man killed himself on Lettie's property, and unwittingly released something ancient and malevolent upon the village. When the eldritch entity threatens our narrator's family, Lettie promises to keep him safe. But at what cost?

AnneDromeda Aug 02, 2013

Neil Gaiman’s *The Ocean at the End of the Lane* is a fairy tale for adults in the best possible sense. It’s incredibly lightweight – at only 178 pages, Gaiman has stripped down his prose and left a spare, stunning myth that can be read in one stop on the beach blanket. Indeed, you may find you need the sunbeams – if this dark, bewitching tale doesn’t send a shiver down your spine, you likely have no pulse.

The book opens with an unnamed man returning to his childhood home after the death of a family member. In his grief, he’s drawn to the farm of a childhood friend named Lettie Hempstock. He winds up seated next to a pond they called the ocean, lost in childhood memories.

He had been a shy, quiet child who loved to read and had few friends. Soon after he turned seven, a boarder living in the narrator’s home took his own life. After discovering the body, the narrator is comforted by the Hempstocks, a family of remarkable women who live at the end of his lane.

Gaiman has created something special with the Hempstocks. Though they’re plainly supernatural, Gaiman makes no effort to explain what they are beyond imbuing them with spiritual elements from the Maiden/Mother/Crone trinity found in neopagan mythology. This lack of explanation makes them all the more powerful – as Gaiman well knows, a story’s real power lies in the unknown.

The narrator begins to bond with 11-year-old Lettie Hempstock. She keeps his company as a series of strange events unfold, all seemingly related to the suicide of the opal miner who boarded with the narrator’s family. Lettie takes the narrator on an errand to banish the being causing the trouble. This errand alone contains all the creepy beauty and wild atmosphere Gaiman’s known for, but it’s just the beginning. The being follows the unnamed young protagonist back home and manifests itself as an evil nanny named Ursula Monkton. She dedicates herself to trapping and enslaving the young boy.

Gaiman lets the story of an evil nanny tormenting the painfully young abandoned narrator unfold as simply as any children’s tale. This makes the powerful, luminous spirituality of the tale’s final showdown all the more profound. The only words to capture the dark beauty and wonder of the final pages of *The Ocean at the End of the Lane* are the ones Gaiman has already used, so you’ll just have to read it yourself. You won’t regret it – this is hands-down the most moving book I’ve read this year. Like any fairy tale, it’s a fiction for the ages, meant for telling the truth.

Jul 07, 2013

A man returns to his boyhood home and remembers events of the past that have been lost to him.


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