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Book Review- The Ocean at the end of the lane

The ocean at the end of the lane

Book Review Ocean at the end of the lane


Magic realism is a style in literature that is not only difficult to write but even more difficult to understand as a reader. There are characters with superpowers and human limitations. The plot is more about what a reader can interpret as compared to what the author has narrated. Ocean at the end of the lane was my first book on magic realism and it made the reader in me go on a adventure ride in a fantasy world. It was like watching one of Christopher Nolan’s movies where you spend more time reading about it than reading into it. This is a novel that manages to balance frenetic action with wistful self-knowledge.

What is it about– This is a story of a young boy, whose name is not mentioned anywhere in the story. He visits his hometown for a funeral and meets his old neighbour Hempstocks.  The Hempstock family is a mysterious household with women of three generations living together. The young boy who is mostly a loner finds company in Lettie Hempstock. Lettie takes him into a world which is mystical, unusual and dangerous. Much like the human world, it has some good and bad people in it. Lettie protects the young boy from bad people and makes him dive into the ocean (which is basically a pond at Hempstock property) the ocean is a metaphor for knowledge, which is limitless and deep but may appear shallow to most of the people like the narrator’s parents.


What to expect– The story is tightly plotted and exciting.  It is written in a melancholic way, there is an element of lament. Reading it feels a lot like diving into an extremely smart, morally ambiguous fairy tale. The narrator in the story states in the book that fairy tales aren’t for kids but grownups. In Gaiman’s version of the fairy tale, his protagonist’s adult and child perspectives are interwoven seamlessly, giving us a sense of how he experienced his past at that time, as well as how it affected him for the rest of his life. The book is confusing in some parts; it leaves with you with questions like who are hunger birds? What are fleas? Why is the sky orange in Hempstock farm? It leaves a lot to reader’s imagination.


What I liked– There is no shortage of imagination in Neil Gaiman’s novel, it has monsters, women flying, an extra marital affair that a child has to witness between his father and the nanny, a mysterious suicide. It has all possible ingredients of a griping plot. It highlights a seven year olds sense of right and wrong yet his desire draws him to adventures beyond his understanding. The story brings in a faint memory that every reader would have in their childhood about something mystical and unexplainable.


What could be better- I wish there was more meat in the story. While the book is about a seven year old boy, I am not sure if it can be read by kids of that age. There are some instances in the book which made me uncomfortable as a reader and questioned the rational of narrator’s parents. The characters are not well defined. I know nothing about the boy narrating the story except that he has no friends and he likes to read. Similarly, there is hardly any character development for his parents.


Recommended– To the seasoned readers, who like reading with an imaginative mind. If you are a novice at reading, don’t pick this book, it will leave you disappointed.

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