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Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

As I wrote previously in my post about my summer reading list, I obtained The Ocean at the End of the Lane knowing absolutely nothing about the novel and only that the author was highly recommended to me.  Upon finishing the novel, I’m still not entirely sure what it’s all about – only because it is so imaginatively written that it is extremely difficult to put cleanly into one genre or the other.  The best way I can describe it is like a Percy Jackson book for adults.  It is much darker than Riordan’s series, but follows the same vein of the mix between real world and what else might be out there – be it magic, mythology, or some other element.

The story begins when man returns to his hometown in England for a funeral.  He drives aimlessly, and arrives at a house he vaguely remembers having a playmate at as a child.  On impulse, he stops in, and finds who he believes to be the girls mother still living there.  He remembers the girl, Letty Hempstock, talking about an ocean on the property, which could have only been a pond.  The protagonist asks Mrs. Hempstock if he can walk to see the pond, and upon doing so, a flood of memories of his interactions with the family and their ties to things beyond our known world rush back to him.

When he was 7, his parents began renting out his room to boarders to make ends meet.  The first boarder stole his father’s car, drove it down the lane to near where the Hempstock farm was, and killed himself in it.  Shortly after, strange things begin happening, which according to 11 year old Letty Hempstock, the protganist/narrator’s friend, all has to do with some other worldly beings her grandmother refers to as “fleas”.  She takes our narrator with her to take care of said flea once and for all, but things don’t go exactly according to plan.  The next thing our narrator knows, the flea has taken human form as a nanny in his house and is controlling everything.  The protagonist knows she’s evil, but can’t get rid of her – no one will believe how awful she is, and she can read his thoughts and appear anywhere on the property in a moment’s notice when he tries to escape.  All seems hopeless, but it gets worse still.  There is a hierarchy of magic beings, and when “fleas” like Ursula the nanny get loose in the world they aren’t supposed to be in, they attract more powerful and terrifying things to come and feast on them – putting everyone in danger.

This was a fantasy book unlike any I’ve read before, and I did enjoy it.  I read the whole thing in a night, mostly because it was too frightening to put down before resolution had been attained.  If you enjoy fantasy, mythology, or a good scare, you’ll enjoy this book.  Also interesting and different, the pages are illustrated, which is something I don’t usually see in adult books but really enjoyed.  If you need something truly unique to break you out of a reading rut, I recommend The Ocean at the End of the Lane... and I give it 3.5 stars! ★★★1/2

– Becca



Becca’s Summer Reading List

IT IS SUMMER AT LAST!  Having completed my first year as a high school teacher, I am so unbelievably excited to spend time reading what I want, when I want, where I want.  On the beach?  I can do that!  In bed, despite it being in the middle of the day?  Already did it, and I’m not sorry!  Coffee shops, my patio, terrace cafes – I’m so excited to do some lounge reading as opposed to frantically-becoming-an-expert-on-before-teaching reading.  Oh, and everyone who thinks kids look forward to summer more than their teachers – you have obviously never taught!  I am ecstatic!  This summer, on my somewhat ambitious reading list are the following:

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster: I’ve been meaning to read this book to aid me in my teaching for years, but never had the time to sit down and actually finish it.  Anyone who is an avid reader and wants to know what’s going on in their books at a higher level should check this out – it’s like taking a college English class but on your own time and in your pjs, if necessary.

Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Gailbraith (AKA J.K. Rowling): I love Harry Potter an unhealthy amount and really enjoyed J.K. Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy as well – so I’ll read anything by this author.  I’m excited since this is a private detective story following the suspicious death/suicide of a young supermodel.  Looks fun!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: I will admit, I know almost nothing about what this book is about.  On my way to Boston, I met another high school English teacher in an airport bar and was chatted books for an hour – it was lovely!  She mentioned that Neil Gaiman is one of her favorite authors, so when I saw this at the library, I thought I’d give it a go!

Juliet by Ann Fortier: I just finished teaching Romeo and Juliet, and am still a little obsessed.  This book is a combo of modern/historical characters – which I love – and follows Julie, who upon receiving a key to a safe deposit box in Sienna realizes that her ancestor was Juliet (yes, THAT Juliet) and Mercutio’s dying words, “A plague on both your houses…” is quite possibly a real curse still at work today.  The curse’s obvious next victim?  Julie!

The Happiness Project: or why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun by Gretchen Craft Rubin: I wrote my masters thesis on positive psychology in the classroom and now dedicating most of my waking hours to a high-stress job that can make me elated and absolutely miserable, often in the same week.  I want to be happy.  So I want to read this book!

Mean Genes: from sex to money to food, taming our primal instincts by Terry Burnham: There’s not much to say other than I studied evolutionary psychology in college and love reading this stuff.  Are we slaves to nature?  How much self-determination do humans really have?  I’ll let you know when I read it.  (Oh, and maybe the next time a furious student throws a phone at me, I’ll know it’s not her fault… it is just those mean genes!)

The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak: How have I not read this book yet??  I’ve been meaning to for years, and now, in a teacher book club that meets only in the summer months, I am!  Set in 1939 Nazi Germany, a young foster girl collects books that don’t belong to her – and shows how literature can be a powerful, life-changing force.  I’d love to use this for supplemental literature in my 10th grade English class in the future!

Water, Stone, Heart by Will North: Not too long ago on Facebook, an ad popped up that said something along the lines of “Did you love The Forgotten Garden?  Then you’ll love the newest book by Will North, Water, Stone, Heart!”  Well, I DO love The Forgotten Garden.  So I ordered this book without so much as reading a description of it.  Now that I have it, it looks like classic chick-lit.  It is set in England, and tells the story of a woman escaping an ugly divorce and a (I’m assuming HOT) professor of architecture whose wife has just left him.  Who cares what else it’s about – I’m gobbling this one up for sure!

I’m also spending a little time this summer working on a few writing pieces (if I ever stray from my reading list long enough to accomplish anything).  It’s slow going, and I’m not happy with much that I have on paper yet… but I’m starting!  And let me tell you, I have IMMENSE respect for all of the authors we’ve reviewed on the blog.  Writing is not an easy task at all, but oh, how thankful I am for the fruits of writers’ labors.  Enjoy your summer – and don’t forget that a good book and some SPF should be on you 24/7!

– Becca