Skip to main content


Literary Friday: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Friday, June 28, 2013

I liked myths.  They weren't adult stories and they weren't children's stories.  They were better than that.  They just were.
~Unnamed Narrator of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, p. 53

This week I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.  It seems like I'd been waiting patiently for months for its release, and I must say that all the hype and anticipation was well-worth it.  I absolutely love this adult fairy tale full of myth, magic, suspense, and survival, and I was sad when I finished reading it.  I'm planning to re-read it over the weekend to better enjoy the mythology hinted at in the story.

The story is primarily told in flashback.  A middle-aged man has returned to his small village in Sussex to attend a funeral.  After it, he drives past where his childhood home stood to the Hempstock Farm at the end of the lane. Once there, childhood memories about fantastical and horrifying events come flooding back, and thus the true story of the novel begins.

Gaiman has said in interviews that the young boy in The Ocean at the End of the Lane experienced a childhood very similar to his own in rural Sussex. Both were bookish, and the main storyline of the book begins after the narrator's heartbreaking seventh birthday party when none of the invited guests came.  I can't imagine anything like that happening to Neil Gaiman! The narrator's family had fallen on hard times and begin letting a bedroom in their home.  One of their tenants, an opal miner from Australia, steals the family's Mini Cooper and commits suicide at the end of the lane near the Hempstock Farm.  This act unleashes a terrifying series of events that involve the seven-year-old narrator. 

The Hempstocks are three generations of women who are immortals only pretending to be human.  They are brilliant in this book: They're totally self-sufficient and explain to the narrator that the only purpose for men is to produce male children.  They came to Sussex from far away before the old country either sank (according to Hettie who appeared to be around eleven years old) or blew-up, according to the grandmother.  The narrator soon discovers that there are realms just beyond the Hempstock Farm that are best left be.  The monsters in this world are terrifying and want to consume everything in our world. The odd rituals to counteract the monsters and injuries sustained in the story are so well-written that the reader can feel the cleansing of the salt water.  It truly is delicious!  Lettie and the narrator get in way over their heads, and the results are tragic. But memory is such a tricky thing, and perhaps not remembering character-building events is the most tragic thing of all. 

Neil Gaiman reads an excerpt from The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Literary Friday
What have you been reading lately?  Please link-up to Literary Friday!
Until next time...
Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. I will definitely pick up this book. I do have a suggestion for others if you are interested in some light reading (without being predictable) it is Where did you go Bernadette by Maria Semple. It was an impulse purchase at the airport and I had very few was delightful and sweet with a message that snuck up on me near the end, which I just didn't see coming. As well there was the bonus of learning a few things about Antarctica. My adult daughter is reading it now and says that she became hooked when the one character indicates a fear of living in Seattle as being too close to Canadians (We are Canadian)... Not sure how well it reviews elsewhere but it ranks high in my books for summer reading.

  2. Oh YAY! I've been anticipating this one, but I'm always nervous that a hyped book won't live up to its premise. Of course, I should know better, given it's Gaiman. :D
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I am sooooo so so excited to read this one! I can't believe I haven't gotten to it yet!

  4. I'm excited to read this book, too! I'm linked my friend! Sweet hugs!

  5. Hi Ricki Jill, I have this in my queue to listen to! Happy reading this weekend!

  6. I am DEFINITELY reading this!!! I love him!!

  7. I almost grabbed this for my nook this weekend, but I have so many in line to read. It sounds so wonderful. I have to be good though and finish what I have before adding to my pile. (Even if it's a virtual one.)


Comments are friendly!


I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

Follow me on Instagram