I adore Neil Gaiman. To my mind, he's a master wordsmith and storyteller. He can distill wonder from the seminal & archaic: historical events, dated language, orphaned mythoi, places with memory...you name it.
As a stand-alone book, this one isn't the most engaging, so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unfamiliar with Gaiman's body of work. Even I admit that he's got far more powerful pieces in his repertoire. For the rest of us who are familiar though, the operative word here is 'nostalgia'. Listen to this for the nostalgia...
I really enjoyed this story, I enjoyed it so much that as soon as I read the last line I started the book over again. Yep, 2 readings in 2 days….skill! Ahem, I mean, it helps that I have the audiobook and Neil Gaiman reads to me as I push papers around my desk.
When I read Coraline, I came into it thinking it was a story for children and I had that mode in my head. There was aspects of that story that were fun and exciting for a child, but when an adult reads it they are kind of freaked out.
Ocean is a book meant for adults, so the darker aspects hit home in a different way. We have all been children. We have all been afraid of the dark or believed that there really were things that were magic. As adults we believe what we can see (or we are supposed to). The fact that the events touched both the adults in the story and the child made it especially frightening. You are lifted out of the story and begin to wonder, is it the imagination of a seven year old trying to cope with what his family is going through, or is this flea real? That uncertainty is what is so exciting about this book. The Hemstock women help keep the story from being too dark. Gaiman does an amazing job of using these women to balance the terror he has invoked with their warmth. Their farm becomes a symbol of refuge and comfort. The young narrator comes to them for help and in Letty he finds a protector.
Letty protects our young narrator, but never explains why she does it. This point in the story begs the question: Was I worth it? I guess what I mean is that the narrator is an adult when we begin the story. He is not at the best place in his life and when these memories begin to rush to him it makes him evaluate if he was worth protecting. Let’s take it a step further. When we were children someone protected us. They did this because there was an expectation / hope of the persons we would become as adults. Have we met that expectation? Is that a bar that we should measure ourselves by? Or perhaps they had no motive and just wanted to make us feel safe.
This is why I read Neil Gaiman’s books. I get so much more from them than an amazing story. I hope you pick up this novel and that you enjoy it as much as I have.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
Gaiman's short novel seems like a strange combination of Virginia Woolf (memory and philosophical introspection) mixed with a contemporary angst about money and the value of one life -- all riding the crazy three-beat narrative tail of Gaiman's own fantastic world of magic, witches and time.
The wonder of Gaiman is his ability to quickly transport the reader with both his emotional reach as his imaginative depth. He isn't satisfied in telling a fantastic story, he really wants to pull the reader by their gut and grab them by their insecurities and worries. He doesn't want to paint a myth-by-numbers story, but instead wants shadows and flashes from his story to resonate with his readers. He seems satisfied to have his novel's truth/meaning flash briefly like the guanine sheen from a school of fish or appear suddenly in the back of your throat like an old, lost sixpence.
A novel that is both worth the credit but still seems too short. Gaiman is a rare author that narrates his stories at the level they deserve.
I'm just a dumb troglodyte who like reading. Me feel good after I read book.
I was hesitant to purchase “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” (Ocean) as this was my first Neil Gaiman novel and my interest in the fantasy genre extends as far as George Martin. I was old-fashioned wrong! Ocean was terrific. Ocean was a simple and unpretentious story about a childhood experience. Similar to Martel’s “Life of Pi”, there’s much more happening here if the reader/listener bothers to delve underneath the surface.
Gaiman has an expert sense of the fears and anxieties that fuel the behaviors of a 7-year-old child. He also captures the magical thinking that children use to understand and negotiate their environments. Gaiman’s child has yet to be overtaken by the realities of science and logic. As a result, the reader is taken into imaginative situations only available through the mind of a child. The insights that come out of Ocean are refreshing and creative.
Ocean is very entertaining and never boring. The audiobook is also very manageable at roughly 5 hours in length and only a handful of characters to track. Ocean is well worth your investment in time and money.
Say something about yourself!
“Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” - The Ocean at the End of the Lane
There is so much longing in this novel: the longing of a child to be understood and believed and accepted; the longing of an adult to remember those things that would give a life context and meaning; the longing of the individual to know that his/her life is worth all of the sacrifices (both those recalled and those forgotten) others have made in order to make it possible. But, as Ginnie Hempstock says in this story, "You don't pass or fail at being a person, dear." We can't justify our own existences. We can only try to be better today than we were yesterday.
I love Neil Gaiman's writing, and I loved this novel. Although the majority of it takes place when the narrator is a seven-year-old boy, the whole of it is infused with his (the narrator's - and, for that matter, Gaiman's) middle-aged awareness of his own weakness, mortality, and confusion. Growing up doesn't mean growing suddenly omnipotent or omniscient, and as I fortysomething reader, I share that vague sense of outrage and disappointment that the years did not make me more than I am or make the world more explicable to me. Fortunately, Gaiman leavens his bittersweet tale with that true sense of wonder that is his hallmark, and we are left with the consolation that there are wiser and stronger beings about, even if they aren't us grown-ups.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane isn't my favorite Gaiman work. It never achieved the same bone-chilling connection for me as Coraline or the masterful sense of place of American Gods or the intellectual thrill of the brilliant (brilliant, I say!) A Study in Emerald, but it's a haunting adult fairytale, beautifully drawn. I suspect it will follow me around for a long time.
Gaiman's sensitive narration really makes this book. Highly recommended.
Avid reader, enthusiastic grandmother, part-time substitute teacher, seamstress.
This is not my usual genre but I loved this book. The story is enchanting in a creepy kind of way. I could not wait to see what happened next.
The book is read by the author. I must admit, the writer is always my favorite reader. It didn't feel like Neil Gaiman was reading a book, it felt like he was telling me a story. Sometimes I wanted to say "and then what?" It kept me on the edge of my seat.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
This is a short book that will have you completely captivated within 10 minutes of starting the book. If you've read Gaiman before then you will quickly recognize the tone (a bit of the dark childhood mystery of Coraline or The Graveyard Book), but more adult themes and the story and perspective of The Ocean at the End of the Lane are unique. Creepy, ironic, with swatches of dark humor, The Ocean is much more thought provoking with a strong fable quality to it than Coraline or Graveyard. I'm not a big fan of horror or monster stories, but I am very attracted to stories that can invoke the eerie chill. Gaiman does it as well as anything since the Twilight Zone for me and I would put The Ocean at the top of the list. Not because the "evil ones" are so frightening or mystical, but more because I could so completely identify with the protagonist - both the child of the past story and the man of the present story. The fears that both boy and man really confront are not the mystical "spooks", but the real life small horrors that we all must deal with. (Is there any monster as frightening as seeing a parent disciplining out of rage?) You could write multiple essays on the many insights mixed into this little jewel of a book. (My favorite being, "There aren't any grown-ups" - Lettie explaining how we become adults but never get to that all-knowing, fearless place of the mythical "grown-up" children aspire to.) But, you just want to know if you should you use a credit. Quick answer - absolutely! Unforgettable characters, a magical story to be savored on many levels, quick-paced and surprising plot, satisfying conclusion, and the narration of the Man himself. Most authors shouldn't narrate, but Gaiman's voice conveys the sweet, ironic quality of his work as well as anyone I can imagine. Highly recommended!
I didn’t especially enjoy Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and that, to my somewhat surprise, is the only Gaiman I have read so far. I’m not sure where to start with The Sandman stuff, and none of the other novels have struck me as particularly compelling. (But I am open to suggestions…) I’m just not that interested in fiction that seems poised to rewrite metaphysics. If Neverwhere was full of secret doors and an entire separate plane of existence, it suggested too large a canvas, one unsatisfactorily filled.
As it turns out, though, The Ocean at the End of the Lane isn’t a grand urban fantasy, nor is it an Allan-Moore style fantasy-politico invention. Instead, this is a smaller, more personal and more haunted story.
And it’s what I was hoping I’d find in Gaiman even if I didn’t know it until now.
The more I read this, the more it brought to mind the fabulous A Wrinkle in Time, down even to the presence of three mysterious women (one a girl here) who represent a glimpse of powers that we humans can never quite realize. But, as important as those characters are, the real story turns on a child who is only slowly learning that the universe is larger than himself. It’s a slow, difficult and sometimes terrifying business to learn that the adults who protect us are really just grown-up children themselves. That story may be as old as our species, but we have to find ways to tell it in every generation.
Gaiman manages very cleverly (and often movingly) to give a sense of the wonders of childhood – the joy of having a kitten or the freedom of running through a field – so the threats that emerge have something real at stake. I also enjoy the framing device of his returning to the scene of these events as an adult – an adult who cannot entirely remember what it felt like to be a child in these circumstances – since it punctuates the story as a whole.
There are moments here where a nostalgia creeps in, where (as he discusses in his afterword) Gaiman seems too much drawn to the lost world of his own childhood, and that feels like a flaw to me. Others may complain about the many unexplained elements of the magic, but that doesn’t bother me; the whole point of magic is for things to be left unexplained. But we do get hints at it, promises that some things will be revealed, and then those things aren’t. I like mystery, but I have less patience for teasing.
In any case, I did enjoy this. It feels like a small work, but that may be its biggest virtue: a clean shot at recovering a lost and focused innocence.
Using books to teleport.
Neil Gaiman does a fantastic job of portraying both young and old, male or female. He also has a wonderful accent that makes it enjoyable to listen to. Since he is the author, he truly gets how to read the emotions and quotes by the characters.
I loved the women in this story, they are all very strong and independent. I would love to have a long conversation (or several) with the old woman of the house. She is mysterious, "older than the moon" and seems to have magical powers she passes on to her daughter and granddaughter.
An imaginative escape from every-day life, I found this book to be like a childhood fairytale, but meant for any age. There are monsters, magic, and child heroes. I enjoyed getting pulled into the eyes of my inner child.
Neil Gaiman is one of the best storytellers working in fantasy today. Everything he does is rooted in classic myth and folklore, and he follows those traditions, both in the characters he uses and the stories he tells.
That said, after having read many Neil Gaiman books and short stories, there is a certain samey sameness to them, the classic Gaiman archetypes, shuffled into slightly different roles. There's the mostly hapless Everyman who gets his one heroic moment, there's the Evil Thing That Will Eat You that always turns out to be something even older and more evil than its outward shape suggests, and there's the super-powerful witchy wise woman who is likewise some sort of cosmic goddess who just pretends to be a folksy old lady.
In this short novel, our narrator is returning to his childhood home, or rather, where his childhood home once sat, before it was demolished and replaced by modern yuppie housing tracts. But the old farm where he made a friend is still there, and the little pond that his little friend called an ocean, and then we get a flashback to his grand childhood adventure, in which at the age of seven he confronted supernatural creatures from beyond time and space and helped save the world. All of which he has forgotten until now.
In some ways, The Ocean at the End of the Lane reminded me of Stephen King's It, except shorter and PG-rated.
I liked it, but Gaiman isn't really doing anything new here, so 3.5 stars. Gaiman himself is a surprisingly good narrator, which is often not true of authors narrating their own books.