Tag Archives: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Book Club Reflection: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

22 Jun

For someone who’s such a big Harry Potter fan, I’m coming to realize I’m not a big into fantasy. While I enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I wasn’t blown away and it didn’t make me want to read every word he’s ever written. That being said, I’m glad there are people who loved this book and I’m glad a few of them were at my book club meeting because I think I appreciate the book more now with the fantasy fan perspective.

For those of us that didn’t enjoy it, many of gave the reason of feeling like this was a children’s novel. Gaiman has made it very clear that he sees this as a book for adults. He’s quoted as saying,

“I thought — it’s really not a kids’ story — and one of the biggest reasons it’s not a kids’ story is, I feel that good kids’ stories are all about hope. In the case of Ocean at the End of the Lane, it’s a book about helplessness. It’s a book about family, it’s a book about being 7 in a world of people who are bigger than you, and more dangerous, and stepping into territory that you don’t entirely understand.” (NPR Interview)

Despite this, it still read like a children’s novel at times and those of us who hadn’t read Gaiman before felt it wasn’t the best introduction to him as an author.

Regardless of the above complaints, the book was a fast read and we were all sucked into it for that. Many of the things that happened to our narrator happened to Gaiman. He grew up in the 1960s and he had a neighbor commit suicide in a car near his home. We wondered if this is a story he made up for himself at the time to cope with something traumatic happening to him. I remember doing this as a child to make bad situations less stressful. Maybe his dad did have an affair with his nanny and imagining her as a magical creature made it easier to cope with.

If we think about it, Gaiman is likely the narrator. No one in the family is ever named even though all the secondary characters had names. We never know whose funeral he is coming back for though we know the sister is involved. (We think it’s the father.) So can we assume that the birthday party no one came to was real? From what our Gaiman loves knew about him, he was the bookish child described in the story. He is the type who would want a book on his birthday cake. Having no one show up to your birthday party is a little odd only because his parents were not aware that something like this would happen. Why wouldn’t they know the boy’s friends’ parents? If there’s a reason the friends’ parents didn’t want their children to attend the party, are the boy’s parents at fault? I don’t know too much about Gaiman’s family life, but I wonder if this is the case.

The boy was a very fearful person. It’s not weird for children to be afraid of the dark, but the extreme measure to which the boy went made a few of us question how it would affect him later in life. We see that as a middle-aged man he’s afraid that his life isn’t good enough. Lettie died for him to live and he’s scared that his life isn’t good enough or worthy of that sacrifice. But isn’t every life worth a sacrifice?

One of our discussion questions asked us why he was chosen for the adventures in this book. We had two schools of thought. The first was that he was special because of his bookish tendencies and imagination. The Hempstock’s needed someone who could believe in unbelievable things and there was no way an adult could do that. The second idea is that he made them up to cope with something traumatic in his life and if you make up magical creatures, they’re going to like you. No one would make up magical creatures that don’t like you. It was part of a game he was playing with himself.

Ursula was a great villain for this book. She kept us reading when a few of us were starting to doubt the book. She, like most villains, didn’t see herself as evil; she gave people what they wanted. The mother wanted meaning and work, she got it. The father might have wanted passion, which she also provided. Maybe he wanted a son who was more athletic and less passive so drowning him in the bathtub was something he wanted. Ursula was just trying to help.

We were all fascinated at the idea of Ursula being a work in his foot. Though we were a bit surprised he didn’t go to his parents about it. You would think a medical concern like that would warrant parental attention. The stereotype of British parents as standoffish and removed was only reinforced here.

Ignoring Gaiman’s earlier quote, we asked ourselves if the ending was positive or negative. We had one vote for positive, which was that the boy seemed to have some closure with his father, even if it’s after (what we think was) his death. The rest of the votes were for negative and very antichildren’s story. Lettie is checking up on him and will never forget the price she paid for him to live. And he never seems to live up to that potential and will continue to forget the sacrifice she paid for him. Talk about a downer.

I asked the group why the Hempstocks were all women. Why weren’t the men powerful? It goes back to mythology, I’m told, to a trope of the maid, the mother, and the crone. In Greek mythology, it was Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate. The three are indicative of a woman’s lifespan and represent all women. Plus, women are more caring for the poor boy and they talk more, which helps move a plot.

So what was this book about? We think a quote from page 112 says it well. Appropriately, these words come from Lettie’s mouth.

“I’m going to tell you something important. 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. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not a one in the whole wide world.”

Adults are no different from children. They have no more knowledge or confidence than our young narrator has. All that’s different is that they’ve lost the ability to look at the world with an open mind. This book was to help us remember when we saw the magic in this world and how wonderful it was.

Our book club is taking the summer off and will come back in September. So here’s to a summer of me-chosen books to read next to the pool.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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WWW Wednesday, 3-June-2015

3 Jun

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


HarryCurrently reading:  I’ve been working on La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It’s reminding me that I need to practice my Spanish more, but I’m really enjoying the story. I hope to finish it this summer.
Good progress with A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I think I’m finally getting somewhere with it and I’m liking it a lot more than I thought I would.
Slow progress with Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I’m not engaged yet and I’m not sure how long it will take, but it’s a good morning read so far.
I’ve started a new audiobook on my phone which is Harry, a History by Melissa Anelli. It’s an oral history of the Harry Potter phenomenon as told by a leading fangirl. Not too far into it yet to judge, but I’ll be sure to report out soon.

KingfisherRecently finished: I got through two! The first was The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine which was an audiobook for me. I enjoyed it and gave it 4/5 stars. Review coming next week.
The second was The Bohemians by Ben Tarnoff. It just wasn’t for me, unfortunately. I wasn’t really interested in the subject and I felt the narrative jumped around a lot so I wasn’t as interested as I would have liked to be. Oh well. 2/5 stars.

I’ve also got two book reviews posted since last week. Go check out my feelings on Waiting to be Heard by Amanda Knox and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

WidowReading Next: Still planning on it being A Widow for One Year by John Irving. This will be the next book to derail me from Sombra and, to be honest, I won’t mind.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (4/5)

1 Jun

As much as I hear about Neil Gaiman and how much everyone loves him, I’ve never read any of his solo books. I read Good Omens, which he co-wrote with the late Terry Pratchett, but never any solo work. Once again, book clubs come to save the day with pushing me outside my comfort zone. Yay, book clubs!

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

I didn’t know what to think of this book. It was good, I enjoyed it, but it was so short and so fantastical that I never got into it completely. I understand why this book is targeted at adults, but the content felt overly juvenile at times. I liked remembering what it was like to be a child and believe what you are told and trust things you cannot see. I liked the characters. I just never connected with them.

It’s hard to comment on the characters credibility because half of them were under a spell, and the other half were fantastical beings of otherworldly power. Old Mrs. Hempstock reminded me of my grandmother and made me so happy to read about. Lettie was the cool friend we all wanted to have, and Ursula was the evil babysitter everyone remembered. But there was a thread of magic to all of them that made them just unbelievable enough to not seem human.

Lettie was an obvious favorite. I loved her sly comments or refusals to answer some questions and her vast knowledge. Even though she was aged well beyond her 11 years, she was still a child in maturity to her mother and grandmother. She was caring when she didn’t have to be, especially to our un-named narrator. I would have loved to be her friend.

As is the case with a lot of fantasy works, I had trouble relating to the characters only because their lives are so different from my own. I’ve never had to use magic to trick my parents or had an evil worm in my foot or been stalked by hungry shadow birds. I can’t relate to this. What I can relate to is the feeling a child has that what’s going on around him seems magical and unbelievable and that it’s impossible to explain it to an adult. Adults aren’t ready to open their minds as readily to things that can’t be explained. I liked that Gaiman brought back this memory.

Neil Gaiman Image via the Huffington Post

Neil Gaiman
Image via the Huffington Post

I liked the scenes with Ursula. She was a great antagonist and embodied everything children remember hating about babysitters and adults. I liked the narrator’s reactions to her and that she was so evil in her manipulation that she was easy to hate.

I didn’t like the first time the narrator went to the Hempstock farm. There was a lot that wasn’t explained, and it frustrated me as a reader not to understand what was going on. I would have asked more questions than the narrator did because I’m not as trusting as a child.

Gaiman wants adults to remember what it’s like to be a child; to be trusting and confused and scared and innocent. It’s hard for adults to remember what this is like. I didn’t remember it well, but Gaiman’s book gave me a bit of a memory. I wonder how he’s able to remember childhood so vividly.

Writer’s Takeaway: As a writer, you are responsible to set a scene for your readers; something so intense they can believe they’re there. Suggestions I’ve heard include involving all five senses. That is much easier said than done. But Gaiman does it wonderfully. He speaks at length about the incredible food the Hempstocks cook, which helps with taste and smell. I could taste and smell the pancakes, and it helped bring the setting to life. I liked that he utilized this trick because it brought me more into the book.

Enjoyable and fun, but not the genre for me. Four out of Five stars.

Until net time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Review – Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane | The Blog was Better
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman | Vulpes Libris
Meeting Neil Gaiman | Geek Madel

WWW Wednesday, 20-May-2015

20 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


CloudAtlasCurrently reading:  Minor progress on La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Two more book club books coming my way so I can’t even promise I’ll get to this soon.
Still going with A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I’ve been having to make a lot of calls in my care lately or have been with someone else so I’ve slowed this down a bit. I hope to pick it up again soon.
Things are going more quickly with The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. The plot is moving very quickly and I’m really enjoying it.
I started a new eBook, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I’m really excited about this one because it’s been #1 on my TBR for about a year now. I tried starting it once  a while back and never made it past page five. I’m beyond that already now. This should be a fun ride.
I’ve got a new book club selection as well.  The Bohemians by Ben Tarnoff. Not too far into it yet and I’m excited that it will help me fulfill the 1800s for my When Are You Reading? Challenge. I need to focus on this one more.

OceanRecently finished: I absolutely flew through Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox. I haven’t read a memoir in a while and it was really refreshing. Knox’s story is fascinating, even if what I read was biased and has been called into question. I hope to review it soon.
I also finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This was a great little story. It was a bit more fantastical than I was anticipating, but I still enjoyed it a lot.

I wrote one review this week, Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Take a look and let me know what you thought of these books.

WidowReading Next: My work book club selected our next book and it will be A Widow for One Year by John Irving. I’m stupidly excited for this selection because it’s off of my TBR and Irving is my favorite writer of all time. I can’t get my hands on it soon enough!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 13-May-2015

13 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


KnoxCurrently reading:  I was able to read just a little bit of La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Right now, it’s looking like I’ll have time for it more this summer but not much before then. Stay tuned.
Still going with A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. It’s good and I like it, but I’m not going to be moving very quickly through it.
I’m enjoying The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. I’ve gotten to the part that’s more of a story line and less of a generic flashback/back story. I like this a lot more.
I’m really enjoying my eBook, Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox. It feels good to be reading a memoir again and this one is really riveting.
My newest book club selection is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. It’s a nice short one I hope I can knock out in one week!

InnerRecently finished: I flew through my latest book club selection, The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer. I enjoyed the fast-paced thriller even though it’s not normally my genre. I did find it a bit far-fetched, which is normally my complaint. Review coming soon.

I wore a review for The White Tiger that posted Monday. I’d been talking about this book for a long time and a lot of you asked about it so click over there to see my thoughts.

BohemiansReading Next: Next Monday I’ll get a copy of The Bohemians by Ben Tarnoff. It’s our bi-annual non-fiction which I tend to either love or hate. We’ll see.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 6-May-2015

6 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


KingfisherCurrently reading:  No movement with La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I’m hoping to get back to it really soon, though. I’ve sped through a few books so have some time to read this between book club selections.
Still going with A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I’m liking it so far. I hope the story lines start to cross more because they seem a bit disjointed.
I’m enjoying The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. It’s pretty great and I’m sad that it’s only 8 hours.
I began a new book club selection, The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer. The author is going to be in town soon to speak so there will be a few more posts on this book and this author. Stay tuned!
I just grabbed a new eBook, Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox. I haven’t read a memoir in a while and the Amanda Knox story sounds like a really good one!

White TigerRecently finished: I finished The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. I didn’t expect to like it too much, but I did enjoy it. My book club discussion will hopefully be tomorrow and I’ll get to see what the other ladies though.
I also finished Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins which was my ebook for the past few months. It was very different from what I normally read and I liked the story but wasn’t a fan of the characters. I’m looking forward to writing a review on it and sorting out my feelings on it.

OceanReading Next: Nothing immediate, especially because I hope to work on ‘Sombra.’ In a few weeks, I’ll be getting a copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman for book club. I’m excited to read my first solo Gaiman work. The only other one of his I’ve read was Good Omens, co-written with Terry Pratchett.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!