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2 Beaverton Science Fiction and Fantasy- A to Z

The Ocean at the End of the Lane


The Ocean at the End of the Lane Cover

ISBN13: 9780062255655
ISBN10: 0062255657
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

Cora, November 4, 2013 (view all comments by Cora)


The OCEAN at THE END of the LANE is the kind of book that stays with you long after you’ve read the last sentence. The story spotlights a disturbing aspect of the human condition: often, broken people can't be fixed. We recognize this in the nameless protagonist and in some people around us, but we fear it might also be true in our lives.

The protagonist comes back to his childhood home for a funeral. We aren’t sure who has died, but by the end of the book our best guess is that it’s his father. After the services, instead of returning to his sister’s home, he takes a drive and ends up at the farm at the end of the lane, which is where the duck pond/ocean was. Both the farm and the three women who live there are magic, filled with an ancient magic that goes back to a time before the earth was formed.

The farm girl, Lettie, her mother, and grandmother befriend the protagonist when he was a lad of seven. The mother still lives on the farm and allows him to walk to the pond, where he sits and remembers what happened when he was seven-years-old.

Two things are apparent almost from the beginning: the narrator/protagonist is unreliable, so we can’t trust his judgment, and he is a broken, misfit. He’s a friendless boy whose world becomes bearable through the books he reads.

This is a story about how unfair, chaotic, and frightening childhood can be. It’s about a lonely boy, living through a time when money is scarce, parents are inattentive and neglectful, and fantasy become more real than anything else. It’s a story about how books and perhaps imaginary friends can help a child survive.

Our hero is surrounded by strong women: the three farm women, who are strong, powerful, and protect him from the evil that has entered his world; his sister, who is an annoyance and has no clue the trouble he’s in, but takes pleasure in making his life miserable; their new governess Ursula Monkton, who is an evil entity from another realm and tries to imprison, harm, and finally wants to kill him; the mother, who is mostly absent and inattentive.

Ursula gives people what they want: money to those in hard times trying to make ends meet; sexual favors to the father; attention to the sister; freedom to leave the house to the mother. These gifts bring negative consequences. Ursula only wants to take from the protagonist--he was her entrance into this world, and she will use him or kill him as it suits her.

The father is the second villain of the story.
What kind of father scoops up a seven-year-old boy and takes him to see a body? At first, I thought he was clueless. Later, I began to realize the father does not consider the needs of his son. Whatever the father’s reason, the protagonist was traumatized by seeing their lodger’s body after his suicide. It's the police officers, not the father, who suggest the boy go with Lettie away from the crime scene.

The father’s insensitivity foreshadows greater cruelty to come: a father trying to drown his son. Water imagery abounds in this book. The pond is really an ocean, and it's magic: it can heal, carry things out of the world, and bring things into the world.

The bathtub scene reeks with the kind of terror and betrayal that scars someone for life. It’s obvious that the father suspects that his son has seen something and will tell the mother about his affair with Ursula. In the end, even the father's death does not release the son from the brutality of his childhood.

The story ends with the protagonist leaving the farm to return to his sister’s house and re-enter the real world. As he moved away from the pond, he already starts to forget the story, that Lettie isn’t in Australia but in the pond, that the farm is magic, that for a while he remembered. Lettie's mother knows he'll return, the reader knows, and at some deep unconscious level he knows. But for now, all his memories slide away as he returns to his adult world, the same broken man he was when he drove to the farm.
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
Paula-maine, October 18, 2013 (view all comments by Paula-maine)
Rating 3.5
My first experience with a Neil Gaiman book, and the creepiness was so vivid that I wanted to stop . . . But I went back to it and ended up thinking NG is an astounding author because of the strong reaction I had to his storyline and the imagery. Let's just say that monster Ursula Monkton enters the story as a very vivid attachment to our narrator's boyhood foot! A story of nightmares, isolation, family dysfunction, strong women and a little kid who loves to read. Great writing but due to the scariness, only a 3.5. I'm willing to try more!
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writermala, October 2, 2013 (view all comments by writermala)
This is definitely an unusual book. It starts out sedately and one almost wonders if it's nothing more than a children's fantasy. But slowly and surely the narrator takes us back to fantastical events forty years back and we are kept turning pages to find out how things turn out. There is a lesson here for those of us who are always wondering whether we passed or failed and it is that, "You don't pass or fail at being a person."
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P.M. Bradshaw, September 3, 2013 (view all comments by P.M. Bradshaw)
A children's book that's not for children? It's difficult to describe. An adult fairy tale?

It's beautifully written, and captures the feel of childhood instantly.
A short book, but BIG on story.
It's fun & furious, uplifting & downtrodden, scary & scarier, and impossible to put down!

It's a great starting point if you haven't read Neil Gaiman before.
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(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
Darahlee10, August 10, 2013 (view all comments by Darahlee10)
An unnamed well developed main character narrates his life shaping childhood memories. Economy force reduced living conditions on his small family. A live-in sitter is hired for him and his sister. Only he feels trapped and aware as the new sitter Ursula becomes their sinister adversary, causing bondage unknown to their parents. Situations become unbearable for him and he stumbles upon his new friend Lettie. “Children as I have said, use back ways and hidden paths while adults take roads and official paths.” Suspense builds at each new turn of events. Common spells are replaced with recipes sometimes, his friend Lettie explains. Ursula begged Lettie to send her back while not looking even faintly human. Turning on Lettie and the main character Ursula becomes evil in her deadly attack, using ancient deceptions. Lettie and the main character confront Ursula. This descriptive fable plays out courageous times in the lives of two determined children and their resourcefulness. Many demonic gripping dangers could win in this thrilling children’s story.
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Product Details

Gaiman, Neil
William Morrow & Company
Fantasy - General
Literature-A to Z
General Fiction
Science Fiction and Fantasy-Fantasy
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
8.25 x 5.5 x 0.73 in 10.4 oz

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane Used Hardcover
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$13.50 In Stock
Product details 192 pages William Morrow & Company - English 9780062255655 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Neil Gaiman at his fantastical best! The story of a man discovering that his childhood may have contained more than he ever imagined possible, The Ocean at the End of the Lane will enchant from the very first sentence. It is the sort of tale you can read over and over again, and it will never lose its magic.

"Staff Pick" by ,

This novella swallows you up. Like a trust fall into a pool, it surrounds and holds you in suspension. You know it. It comes to you in fog, like a dream you recognize and haven't quite woken up from. And like a dream, it's done. Just like that.

"Review" by , “Poignant and heartbreaking, eloquent and frightening, impeccably rendered, its a fable that reminds us how our lives are shaped by childhood experiences, what we gain from them and the price we pay.”
"Review" by , “Gaiman mines mythological typology — the three-fold goddess, 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.”
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "[A] compelling tale for all ages...entirely absorbing and wholly moving."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "Ocean has that nearly invisible prose that keeps the focus firmly on the storytelling, and not on the writing....[T]his simple exterior hides something much more interesting; in the same way that what looks like a pond can really be an ocean."
"Review" by , "This slim novel, gorgeously written, keeps its talons in you long after you've finished."
"Review" by , "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!"
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Synopsis" by , 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.

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