The Ocean at the End of the Lane


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There are three women living in a house at the end of a lane — Old Mrs Hempstock, Ginnie Hempstock, and Lettie, who owns an ocean which appears to be a duckpond, "dark water spotted with duckweed and lily pads". A dead fish, which turns out to have swallowed a Victorian sixpence, leads to an encounter with something alien, powerful, dangerous, though not entirely malign.

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It manages to get into the boy's house, where only he knows that it is not what it seems and that it means to take over. The boy moves into a world of primeval danger, helped, when he can escape to them, by the Hempstock women, who are also not what they seem. His family's complete unawareness of any threat is part of the terror. Gaiman has an epigraph from Maurice Sendak : "I remember my own childhood vividly … I knew terrible things.

But I knew I mustn't let adults know I knew. It would scare them. Towards the end of this tale the storyteller enters the pond which is an ocean and has an odd experience of space and time — trying to get one's mind around scientific images of space and time, light and black holes, the Big Bang and its consequences is enough to shake our sense that "everyday reality" is particularly real — and says, "I saw the world I had walked since my birth, and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality I knew was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.


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I was somewhat surprised to see that The Ocean at the End of the Lane has been discussed as a book for adults which children can also read. Gaiman's long novel American Gods is a wild fantasy for adults who remember being child readers. The Ocean at the End of the Lane arouses, and satisfies, the expectations of the skilled reader of fairytales, and stories which draw on fairytales.


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A Clash of Kings Reissue. George R. Norse Mythology. Neil Gaiman. The Handmaid's Tale. Margaret Atwood. Good Omens. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. A Game of Thrones Reissue. The Power. Naomi Alderman. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Lies Sleeping. The Girl in Red. Christina Henry.

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Paperback edition. Comment 0. Sarah at Leeds. Nicki Golding at bluewater. Your review has been submitted successfully. Not registered? The book starts with the unnamed protagonist returning to his childhood hometown for a funeral.

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There he revisits the home in which he and his sister grew up and remembers a young girl named Lettie Hempstock, who had claimed that the pond behind her house was an ocean. He stops at the house where Lettie had lived with her mother and grandmother and encounters a member of her family and starts to remember forgotten incidents from the past. The main narrative starts as he recalls a time when an opal miner, who was living at the boy's home, steals the narrator's father's car and commits suicide in the back seat, having gambled away his friends' money; this death allows a supernatural being to gain access to the narrator's world, leaving money for people in unpleasant ways.

After a coin becomes lodged in the narrator's throat overnight, choking him, he seeks his neighbour Lettie's help.

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She agrees to help, insisting that he accompany her on the travel necessary to find the spirit and bind it. Having been instructed never to let go of her hand, in a moment of surprise he does, and in that instant something lodges in his foot. Once home, he pulls what appears to be a worm out of his foot, but a piece is left inside him.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The next day, his mother tells him she is starting a new job and a woman named Ursula Monkton is to look after him and his sister. The narrator takes an instant dislike to her and soon realises that she is actually the worm he had pulled out of his foot. She had used him as a way to travel out of the place he and Lettie had visited and is now inhabiting his house.

Ursula quickly ingratiates herself with his family, winning over his sister and seducing his father, while the narrator is alienated from his family and is almost drowned in the bath by his father as Ursula watches. Most of the narrator's time is then spent locked up in his bedroom, avoiding Ursula. Frightened, he manages to escape one night. He barely makes it to the Hempstock farm, where the Hempstocks take care of him and remove the wormhole from his foot, which had been left behind by Ursula as an escape path.


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Lettie and the narrator confront Ursula, who refuses offers from the Hempstocks to leave peacefully for a world that is less dangerous for her. Unwilling to believe that there could be anything in the world that could harm her, Ursula is attacked and eliminated by "hunger birds", entities that serve a purpose similar to scavengers.

Book review: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is a fairy tale for adults

These insist on eating the narrator's heart, as a piece of Ursula's wormhole still remains there. The Hempstocks bring him back to the safety of their property through the ocean by their house, which Lettie carries to him in a bucket. While in the ocean, the narrator understands the nature of all things, but the memory fades once he gets out. The Hempstocks promise to keep him safe, but the hunger birds begin to eat his world in order to force him off the property.

This proves effective and the narrator attempts to sacrifice himself, only for Lettie to jump in between him and the hunger birds. Lettie's grandmother threatens the hunger birds, which she refers to as "varmints", with annihilation if they do not leave. They comply, but Lettie is near death as a result of their attack.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane The Ocean at the End of the Lane

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