The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Harper Audio
Publication Date: 2013
Length: 5 hours, 48 minutes
Read by: Neil Gaiman
The Short Version:
An unnamed man returns to the area of his childhood home for a funeral and recalls long forgotten events.
Why I Read It:
I have heard such good reviews of this and I have never read anything by Neil Gaiman (I know). I decided this was a good book to start with.
From the publisher:
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet sitting by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean), the unremembered past comes flooding back. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. A stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.
Oh this book was just a delight to listen to. Not many authors are the best choice to narrate their own work but Neil Gaiman is an exception. His narration of the audio of this book absolutely made it perfect.
This story is full of magical happenings but it’s not all rainbows and unicorns stuff. This also has plenty of the dark and foreboding fare that Grimm’s unDisneyfied Fairy Tales contained. It’s got fairy tale elements but it’s definitely for adults.
There were so many times I had to stop the audio to make note of a quote to look up later or listen to parts of it again. It took me longer than the stated length of the audiobook because it was so full of perfectly written and spoken moments.
I could fill pages with quotes I wrote down. Many of them and much of the book involve the differences in how children and adults experience and perceive things.
Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.
Peas baffled me. I could not understand why grown-ups would take things that tasted so good raw, and then put them in tins, and make them revolting.
I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.
I highly recommend the audio version of this book. Gaiman manages to add to the magic of the story and his voice wraps the magic around you.
Now that I have confessed that this is my first Gaiman I want to listen to more of his books that he’s narrated. Which Gaiman book do you suggest I listen to next?
Rating 4.5/5 for the book
Rating 4.5/5 for the narration