Shel Silverstein

One of the greatest things about life is that it’s full of mysteries, the same of which can be said about Neil Gaiman’s novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Gaiman, the writer behind Coraline and Stardust, tells a story about an evil nanny, lemon pancakes, oceans in buckets, and how loss, childhood, and memory tangle inextricably together. Centered around a nameless narrator and his encounter with the Hempstock women—three generations of wily, work-hardened English country gals who tell it like it is, even when he has no idea what “it” is—the book was published in 2013 to rave reviews and quickly became a New York Times Bestseller.


At less than 200 pages, Ocean is a quick read. In short, the book follows the story of… well, the protagonist, a fifty-something Brit who remains nameless throughout the novel. When he returns to his childhood home in Sussex, England years after it’s been torn down, he’s immediately reminded of his neighbor friend Lettie Hempstock. Auburn-haired and freckled, Lettie serves as a physical and emotional opposite to the protagonist, who, as a young boy, primarily spent his time spelunking the hidden recesses in children’s books.


I held Lettie’s hand as we left the farmhouse, promising myself that this time I would not let it go.


At its core, the story is at once a commentary on how memory works, how it shifts and changes with time, and also a commentary on the differences between the kind of knowledge a child possesses, and that of an adult. About a third of the way through, the reader begins to wonder what’s real? What of this is actually being recalled from memory and what, possibly, is pure fabrication? Take those questions further and you might come up at Well, what constitutes reality? If all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream, how can we be sure of what’s real and what’s imagined?


I wish you’d explain properly,” I said. “You talk in mysteries all the time.


Gaiman has stated Ocean is a book for all ages and the reviewer would agree. It offers the same flight of fancy a reader expects from The Chronicles of Narnia, but written with the same intrigue of an adult fantasy novel. According to, a movie version of the novel is “In Development.” As much of a fan as I am of book-to-film adaptations, this one confounds me. Because much of the book is written in such abstract terms—and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say the protagonist (being a child) is an Unreliable Narrator—it will be interesting to see how certain scenes (no spoil alerts here) come to life via special effects. Rumors say Focus Features acquired the rights before the book even went to press; also, that Tom Hanks is set to produce with Joe Wright directing. There’s no date to mark on your calendar yet, but in the meantime, do the hipster thing and jump on this before it becomes such a craze the five copies at your local library are all checked out.

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Happy reading 🙂