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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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

BOOK review
Started on: 23.January.2013
Finished on: 26.January.2013

Title : The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author : Neil Gaiman
Publisher : Harper Collins
Pages : 181 Pages
Year of Publication : 2013
Price : Rp 200,000  (

Rating: 3/5
Baca & Posting Bareng BBI 2014:
January: Fable
I said, "What makes the ocean different to the sea?"
"Bigger," said my father. "An ocean is much bigger than the sea. Why?"
"Just thinking," I said. "Could you have an ocean that was as small as a pond?"
"No," said my father. "Ponds are pond-sized, lakes are lake-sized. Seas are seas and oceans are oceans. Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic. I think that's all of the oceans there are."
A middle-aged man return to his childhood home for a funeral; and he revisited the farm that was at the end of the road. When he met a family member in that house, all the memories he had forgotten started to return to his mind. It all started when he was just a seven year-old boy. There was an opal miner who was a boarder at his house, and soon after, the opal miner died in the back of a car after he gambled his friends' money. After witnessing the miner's death, the boy went to the farmhouse where he met an eleven year-old girl named Lettie Hempstock, who lived with her mother and grandmother. Lettie claimed that the small duck pond at the back of her house is an ocean. And it is all the beginning of the boy's horrifying story.

It was night, when the boy started choking and realized that there was a coin shoved in his throat. He quickly find Lettie for help; and she agreed to help him by taking him to a place where she instructed him to never let go of her hand. But when the boy was startled, he let go of Lettie's hand and he felt something got inside his foot. At home, he pulled out a worm from the hole that was in his foot - unfortunately, there's still a piece left inside of him.
"I was a seven-year-old boy, and my feet were scratched and bleeding. I had just wet myself. And the thing that floated above me was huge and greedy, and it was to take me to the attic, and when it tired of me, it would make my daddy kill me."
"There was still a monster in my house, and, in a fragment of time that had, perhaps, been snipped out of reality, my father had pushed me down into the water of the bath and tried, perhaps, to drown me."
The next day, a woman named Ursula Monkton started working at the boy's house; and he realized that she was in fact the worm that he had pulled from his foot. Ursula was quickly liked by the boy's family, and because he didn't like Ursula, he was alienated in the house. His father was especially fond of Ursula, so when the boy stated his dislike toward her, his father gone mad and almost drowned him in the bath.

Once again, the boy seek Lettie Hempstock for help. Even though the Hempstocks knew a way to get rid of the creature, but it wasn't that simple because there's still something left behind in the boy's heart. The creature called varmints demand the boy to be dead, but Lettie Hempstock demanded otherwise and wanted to save his life.
"It's hard enough being alive, trying to survive in the world and find your place in it, to do the things you need to do to get by, without wondering if the thing you just did, whatever it was, was worth someone having... if not died, then having given up her life. It wasn't fair."
source ()
So, this is the second time I tried reading Neil Gaiman's book; actually I didn't plan on reading this book, but I decided to get this book to join the January Read-Along with BBI (Indonesian Book Blogger) with fable as the genre of the book. Unfortunately, I still couldn't love Neil Gaiman's style of writing. I don't know, maybe it's not my cup of tea - even though I knew this book won The Best Fantasy book for Goodreads Choice Awards 2013. The story has a kind of surreal and dark feeling to it. And so, even though the book is considerably thin - with only 181 pages, it took me quite a long time to finish and it's pretty difficult for my mind to process.

The story is written in the first person POV of the boy, whose name we do not know. The plot of the story is actually pretty simple, but I don't know why it feels extremely lengthy and it feels like the story isn't going anywhere - or is it me who just don't understand it well enough? As the author stated in the acknowledgments, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is supposed to be a short story, but then made into a novel. Which is why the storyline is pretty simple, I guess. It's about supernatural things happening to the boy, and the Hempstocks who helped him through all the obstacles. The ending is by far the best part about the book; because it was unexpected and gives a little bit of emotion to the story (while the rest of the story feels a little bit flat). But I have to admit, I consider this book a pretty good fantasy book. The surreal feeling in the story, the creatures, and especially the pond that's actually an ocean - are the things I like in the book. I'm just not really comfortable with how the story flows, I guess.

As for the characters, there are not many of them - because the book is pretty thin and the story is simple. The main character is the nameless narrator; along with Lettie Hempstock, her mother, and also grandmother. There's also the boy's family, Ursula Monkton, and the varmints. The biggest focus goes to the narrator and Lettie, I guess. And even though I don't have any favorite character from this book, the boy's character development is one of the things I love in the story. At first, the boy is all scared and he never had a friend. After meeting Lettie, who he considered as his friend, he started finding courage inside of himself.

Overall, it was a pretty good read, even though the story feels a little bit absurd for my liking. Or maybe it's just me and my not-so-imaginative brain. Anyway, I'm still hoping someday I can find a Neil Gaiman's book that can be my favorite. Because I know Neil Gaiman is a famous author, and his books' average ratings in goodreads mostly exceeds 4.00. So if you love Neil Gaiman's works, please help recommend me a book that I might like ;)
Although it's a bit late, I'm submitting this for January BBI Read-Along.

by.stefaniesugia♥ .


  1. neil gaiman emang absurd kok stef.. hehehehe..
    coba mulai dari stardust karena ada unsur fairytale-nya (filmnya sama bagus ama bukunya), terus the graveyard stories dan good omen :)

    1. untung dehh ak bukan satu2nya yg mikir gitu xD
      Oke dehh, thanks rekomendasinyaa ;)

  2. nice review steph. Yes, sometimes I couldn't fathom Gaiman's books myself, although I wanted to love his books a little bit more.

    1. thank you! me too, i so want to love his books but it doesn't turns out that way :(

  3. Hahah.. yang ini aku nggak tertarik baca karena nggak ngerti sinopsisnya.. Tapi udah beli Graveyard Book sama The Good Omen siih. Moga-moga "nyambung" bacanya.

    1. Aku jg berikutny mgkn mau coba Good Omen, mudah2an 'nyambung' juga xD

  4. Coba baca The Graveyard aja Stef. Aku baca Good Omen ga suka malah, idenya memang absurd as always ��

    1. Gitu yah? oke dehh, kalo gitu ntar coba baca The Graveyard Book dulu ; daripada kena cerita yg absurd lagi xD

  5. aku belum baca satu pun buku-bukunya Om Neil Gaiman ini x)


  6. Setuju, Graveyard Book dulu aja. Terus Stardust (lalu nonton movie adaptationnya). Terus Fortunately, the Milk.
    Sejujurnya, itu urutanku baca buku2 Neil Gaiman. It works the way it was less absurd and can be categorized as lighter works from him.

    1. thanks untuk rekomendasinya ^_^ semoga kalo ngikutin urutan itu bisa suka jg sama karya2nya Neil Gaiman xD

  7. This book was beautiful. I really like Gaiman`s simple, blunt and somehow artful writing style. The story is nice enough, maybe a bit less intricate than I am use to, but is well written. The characters are well made, kept nice and even through the book.It's a good, light read for the casual reader, and kept me up at night, but not too late.

  8. I have been reading a lot of Neil Gaiman's books but I think this is my favorite. It was a great story and reminded me of what I felt like as a child. This is well worth the read.


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