The Ocean at the End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman: A Review

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“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. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman

Six word summary: Trust your friendly neighborhood supernatural ladies.

I rate it: 7.5/10

Having been converted into a Gaigirl earlier this year, I was probably one of the first people to acquire Neil Gaiman’s new book when it was released in India in June. This was of course preceded by weeks of anticipation and Facebook countdowns. So when I finally got my copy on the day of the release, The Ocean at the End of the Lane had a lot of expectation to live up to. Thank Gaigod and all his merciful monsters it didn’t disappoint.

Fan art by Litreactor.com: That flappy monster thing

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the story of a seven year old boy who encounters some unworldly forms of evil. Unleashed by a freak suicide, there is a force at play in his village that grown ups don’t seem to recognise, and the only people who seem to know anything about what’s going on are the three Hempstock women, who are far less human than first appearances indicate. When evil takes up residence in his own home and preys upon his family, can the tiny protagonist trust Lettie Hempstock and her mother and grandmother to help and protect him? I’m not telling, you need to read this magnificent fairy tale to find out.
The reason I liked The Ocean a lot was the fact that it was really crisp, at just 181 pages, and told the story without any blubber or luggage. A part of me kept thinking that if Stephen King wrote this same story it would be five times as long, and all the monsters would have ridiculous names. Neil Gaiman cuts to the chase quickly and neatly, and wraps up his story leaving you wishing for more.

Painting by Sidney Eileen

In The Ocean at the end of the Lane, Gaiman fantastically depicts the helplessness of childhood, the dependence on adults, and the absolute terror of knowing your parents are no longer to be counted upon. As I’ve observed before in my review of Lord of the Flies, the purest sort of horror is the horror of childhood. People like King and Gaiman make me glad I escaped my childhood in one piece and never have to go back.

Also, I loved the three Hempstock women, parodying and yet completely dissimilar to the traditional three witches. They made me feel safe and protected. In a horror story, it is always nice of the author to include one person who knows what is going on and how to stop it. It brings a lot of comfort to the reader.

There is nothing I really disliked in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but I sort of missed Neil Gaiman’s humour which I loved so much in Anansi Boys, American Gods, and most of all Good Omens. Purporting to be a fairy tale, The Ocean has very little tongue-in-cheek. Oh well.

-Amritorupa “Gaigirl” Kanjilal

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