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Neil Gaiman ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ Review


Written by: Bruce Priddy

An unnamed narrator, perhaps Gaiman himself who admits to drawing upon events from his childhood in penning The Ocean at the End the Lane, home for the funeral of an unnamed relative, returns to the place where, at age seven, the most important events of his life took place.  For the first time, maybe, he recalls standing among beings from elsewhere, how it almost destroyed his family, what was sacrificed and the hole it left in his heart.

Fans of Gaiman’s work will see very familiar elements.  Another world exists, alongside or behind our own, someone from our own intrudes upon it and consequences spiral forth.  But this is not a case of more of the same from the author.  Gaiman delivers a haunting dark fairy-tale, filled with awe, horror and ultimately profound, aching loss.  From appearances Ocean at the End of the Lane would seem to be a coming of age novel.  But narrator never stopped being that seven year old boy, carrying a hole in his heart both figurative and literal, even if he had forgotten.

Horror fans should not be put off by the dark fairy tale aspect of the book.  From the circumstances that set off the events of the book to the creatures that stalk the narrator, there is plenty here to satisfy even the most demanding horror fan.  Of particular note is a scene where the narrator finds a worm making a home in his foot; the description set my stomach crawling up my throat.

If any flaw is to be found here, it is a narrative misstep.  As one gets to the end, you wonder how this story can even be told.  To say any more would risk turning this review into a spoiler.

I have often heard people complain they did not want a book to end.  For me, Ocean at the End of the Lane is such a book.  I did not want the novel to end the way it did, hoping the narrator could recover what was lost, and aching that he did not.  Days have passed since I finished the book and still the ache is there.

Order it right here.

Rating: 4/5

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

5 Comments on Neil Gaiman ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ Review

  1. This is a great review and enough to make me want to try a change of genre.


  2. I went to one of his and his wife’s “ninja” shows in Melbourne once. He is an amazing orator – though it’s his wife who really has “presence”. He told one of these fairytale horror stories, and I have to admit it had me on the edge of my seat.

    On the subject of fairytale vs. horror. My creative partner is a huge fan of horror, but I wasn’t so much… so when it came to us making our horror short, I had a hard time getting into it, as I proclaimed that I wanted to write fairytales, not horror. But he argued that horror was just a dark fairytale. And he’s right. Especially true if you look at all the original versions of the fairytales. Very very grim.


  3. I really enjoyed reading the review. I’m not a Gaiman fan (since bailing on Neverwhere after a few chapters), but maybe someday I’ll give him another chance.


  4. Ocean at the End of the Lane captures the sense of wonder and terror of childhood when magic is real and champions look like 11 year old girls. I particularly enjoy the author’s restraint in explaining exactly what everything is so that there is some mystery left behind the wonders. Short but sweet.


  5. My local library book club is reading this. I have not started it, but I have to finish it this weekend. I can’t tell if this is “horror” like the Brothers Grimm, or “horror” like Ted Dekker? I don’t like horror in general, but I can handle it if its no worse than the Brothers Grimm.


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