book reviews · gen reads

gen reads: the ocean at the end of the lane

Hello friends!
Today for Gen Reads, I am talking all about a lovely little book that completely captured my heart a few summers ago. 
Sean brought The Ocean at The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman on a vacation we took to the mountains of North Carolina. We stayed in a dog-friendly cabin 30 miles outside Asheville. It was marvelous. Every morning we would drink coffee on the top deck of the cabin while the dogs ran around in the woods and every morning and evening we would both read side by side. 
Sean read me some passages from the book our first day there and I was so intrigued that I asked if could save his place and just read a bit of it. As always, a little bit of reading turned into Genevieve taking over the book and reading the whole thing in the next 36 hours.
This book is the perfect summer or weekend read, short but intense.

“A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home and is drawn to the farm at the end of the road where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl and her mother and grandmother. As he sits by the pond ­behind the ramshackle old house, the unremembered past comes flooding back—a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark, 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.” (back cover of book)


The Ocean at the End of the Lane is first and foremost a book about childhood. It’s about the wonder, the confusion, the innocence, and perhaps the most powerful of all, the powerlessness we all experience as children. Since this is a Neil Gaiman book there is of course the thread of the magic intertwined with reality but it is done so charmingly that it doesn’t feel impossible.

The story begins with a middle aged man returning to his hometown to attend a funeral and while he is there, he is reminded of memories of his childhood when he first befriended a young girl named Lettie Hempstock. Lettie along with her mother and grandmother live at the farm at the end of the road by the narrator’s house (we never find out the main character’s name). After a man kills himself near their farm, a cataclysm of events begin to unfold. A darkness has been let out into the world and seems dead set on destroying the family of our young narrator. Lettie becomes a protector and we learn that she is not just any ordinary 7 year old girl.

While this book does contain other worldly fantastical creatures and storylines, it never feels contrived. Gaiman is so adapt at adding just enough surprise and magic into his writing that the fantastical seems natural and even possible. The first book I ever read by him was Stardust and The Ocean at the End of the Lane captured that same tender excitement my heart felt as I dove into the world of Stardust.

There were parts to this book that were absolutely gripping and a scene with a worm that is one of the craziest scenes I have ever read (I don’t want to give too much away). While this book is a short read, it is a completely fleshed out story and one that feels much richer than 178 pages could possibly hold. The ending is haunting and mysterious and you are left wanting more which to me is always the sign of a great book.
Some of my most favorite quotes:

“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”

“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. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.”

“How can you be happy in this world? You have a hole in your heart. You have a gateway inside you to lands beyond the world you know. They will call you, as you grow.”

“I wondered if that was true: if they were all really children wrapped up in adult bodies, like children’s books hidden in the middle of dull, long adult books, the kind with no pictures or conversations.”

If you think this book sounds marvelous and you are thinking about buying it, please consider buying it through this link. I am a member of Amazon Associates and by purchasing The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by clicking the link below you will be helping me pay off some of my medical bills <3


4 thoughts on “gen reads: the ocean at the end of the lane

  1. First of all, I just wanted to say I read this book when it first came out and STILL think about it sometimes! I love when books leave impressions like that on you.

    Secondly, just wanted to say I’m a North Carolinian and Asheville has always had my heart. So glad you visited there. I’m sure it was a magical place to read this. I went to college about 15 minutes outside of Asheville and the campus always had little hideouts I could stumble upon and read at 🙂

    1. Its a great book and I am excited that other people loved it too! Good books just seem so hard to find, I often re-read my favorites because I rarely find books anymore that really capture me. Its such a bummer, my bookworm status is not so bookish. Asheville is marvelous. My best friend is moving there in a year and I am SO excited to have an excuse to go visit! Theres an AMAZING restaurant called Plant there that you should TOTALLY check out if you haven’t. Its divine, one of the best vegan restaurants Ive been to!

  2. Eeek!! I just finished reading this book. I had checked out his book American Gods but it was damaged so I had to return it. The librarian recommended The Ocean At The End of the Lane and I really enjoyed it. I spent a good 15 mins after I finished it googling the different theories about what really happened in the end. This was a good review. Take care.

    1. I REALLY wanted to like American Gods, especially since I loved Stardust and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I loved the ending because it really does engage you to wonder. Talking about the book makes me want to read some of his other stuff. He’s such a great writer! Have you read anything else of his?

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