Book Reviews

Neil Gaiman – The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Review


Neil Gaiman, ‘ The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ – Review by Stuart Cross

– ISBN 978-1-4722-0034-1

Neil Gaiman is on the Internet’s high score list. He is up there with cats. Some say he is the reason cats are even on the list. He is great twitter fodder and rules tumblr but he is first and foremost a writer and storyteller.

Gaiman begins, ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, with an intriguing epigram from Maurice Sendak, author of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. It sets the tone brilliantly:

I remember my own childhood vividly . . . I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.

The terrible things the narrator faces as a seven year old include anatomy, suicide, sex, money, death and a creature beyond space and time masquerading as a nanny. It is a novel that lets you feel the terror of the powerlessness of a child emphatically and empathetically.

@Neilhimself goes on to describe ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ as a novel of childhood, memory and survival. For the narrator, who is more at home with books, childhood is where the old magic lies. His childhood memories are saturated with a psychological poignancy. The novel is stitched and interwoven with magic and Jungian anima and shadow.

The ocean in question is a beautiful conceit wonderfully explored and contrasted throughout the novel, especially with the bathtub scene. Water works as an extended metaphor for both memory and knowledge and that miasmic slowness of being underwater captures the sense of collective consciousness at play as the narrator relives his memories.

Gaiman excels as a mythmaker. He plays with and intertwines many myths but always makes them his own. Neil Gaiman treads the space between the familiar and the uncanny and blurs the differences there between. For regular readers of Gaiman, ‘The Ocean and the End of the Lane’, sees the return of the Hempstock’s and many themes and ideas explored in works such as ‘The Sandman’ and ‘Coraline’ but the novel remains an almost epiphanic and original vignette into childhood.

The narrator says. “Adults follow paths. Children explore.” This novel is an invitation to explore childhood and memory with wonder. If you are given to genrification this novel is a healthy mix of YA and fantasy. It is the sort of young adult novel that should be read by everyone. Stephen Colbert said to John Green, author of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ and fellow internet high score achiever, ‘A young adult novel is a regular novel that people actually read.’

This novel deserves to be read.


Neil Gaiman –

Coraline – film trailer –

– book –

– cats –

The Sandman –

Maurice Sendak –

John green and Stephen Colbert –



John Green –

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