Good Books Good Times Book Club: The Ocean at The End of The Lane Chapters 13-Epilogue

Posted on August 24, 2013 by


Let’s do this.

Chapter 13

So we finally get to see the Ocean that’s so damn important it’s the title of the novel, and it’s everything. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, a lot of the description for it is really cool and it kind of contextualizes the Hempstocks, whom I’ve critiqued now and again for feeling a little deus ex machina-esque. On the other hand, it is mildly underwhelming that it’s more unexplainable, unlimited power, but I’m more so just intrigued by how it actually manages to reign things in despite being, by definition, uh, “un-reignable”.

Blog reader AlanTheRobot brought up something really interesting in the last post that I think really hits the nail on the head:

I was just reading about this the other day as a writer and it was fascinating. But basically, there’s two way to go about doing magic in books. Rule based and not rule based. When you do rule based magic as a writer you’re more free to actually USE the magic to solve things. But at the same time it therefore gets less and less mysterious and less magical. It’s not so much magic as it is just a different type of science. You can move away from rule based magic (that is just not explaining it, there might still be rules behind the scenes although it’s uncommon). When you do, the more you rely on that rule-less magic to do things the more it seems like deus-ex machina like you described. So the more mysterious the magic the less it should be used to get characters out of dangerous situations.

And, damn, if that doesn’t explain everything I’ve felt about this book! While I like how there aren’t really any hard rules on how magic works in this book (because, like I keep saying, I like how it complements the childlike sense of powerlessness/not really understanding the world), the moments I always complain about are how the Hempstocks are just instant solutions and this pretty much explains why that isn’t particularly satisfying!

“Do you still know everything, all the time?”
She shook her head. She didn’t smile. She said, “Be boring knowing everything. You have to give all that stuff up if you’re going to muck about here.”

Which also sums it up pretty well, save for the “save everyone all the time” stuff.

Chapter 14

So I mentioned in discussion in the comments in the last post that the hunger birds don’t really scare me as much as Ursula Monkton did, even though they were clearly stronger than her. Ursula Monkton seemed unbeatable until Lettie was around so they could make up whatever magic necessary to solve the problem, but Lettie’s already around with the hunger birds. They’re still pretty badass though.

We are hunger birds. We have devoured palaces and worlds and kinds and stars. We can stay wherever we wish to stay.
We perform our function.
We are necessary.

The magic-as-it-goes-along reaches a stalemate and the hunger birds start eating reality, which is really cool, but – again – Lettie’s already there, so weirdly reality being destroyed isn’t as frightening as Ursula Monkton being the voice on the phone when the narrator tried to call for help. Weirdly.

The narrator’s thought process about not wanting to die, but realizing what he has to do (the particular wording of “I was a normal child. Which is to say, I was selfish and I was not entirely convinced of the things that were not me” is some of my favorite in the novel) results in his sacrifice which, interestingly, results in Lettie’s actual sacrifice. And it is sad – I liked Lettie and was sorry to see her go because the narrator didn’t understand the rules of magic any better than we do – but the way the magic in the novel Calvinballs its way to a solution by getting the hunger birds in trouble (or whatever) by harming Lettie doesn’t have the weight I’d have hoped for.

That was the first time I heard fear or doubt in the voice of one of the hunger birds.
“There are pacts, and there are laws and there are treaties and you have violated all of them.”

Although it is kinda funny, like everything is on such a cosmic scale that its hard to tell who the pawns are, but it probably doesn’t matter.

“I will deal with you in my own time and in my own way. For now I must tend to my children.”
Yes, lady.
Thank you, lady.

Chapter 15

The first chapter after Lettie’s death/death-type-thing is really sad. Now, throughout this whole Good Books Good Times Book Club experiment, people have been saying how they’ve read ahead (totally cool, I read books way too slowly), and how they can’t wait to talk about the ending because it will all make sense, and, yeah, it actually does. I really liked how Mrs. Hempstock brought the narrator back home and made everything like it never happened, but my absolute favorite part was him getting a new cat, which tied things up pretty nicely from a number of different angles, both with the supernatural magic stuff and with the cat, because, for serials, that cat getting killed was the saddest thing that happened in this book.


So I was wondering why the narrator didn’t remember anything, and I was worried how this was going to turn out with the “making up the rules as they go along” magic, but I actually really liked how this wasn’t his first trip he doesn’t remember back to the Hempstock farm to look at the ocean. It’s a nice ending to how the novel handled the childhood theme, by treating it as a sort of metaphorical memory that kind of comes and goes.

So Yeah That’s It

That’s it for The Ocean at the End of the Lane (leave your final thoughts!) and that’s it for our first attempt at a Good Books Book Club over here! Leave your thoughts, whether you’d like to see a feature like this again, and I’m sure that people are going to throw book suggestions at me if I do another one whether I ask or not, so go ahead and do that too! Thanks for taking part in this experiment with me, and I hope you liked it.