When it comes to the Hempstocks, picking a favorite would be like trying to pick a favorite child or kitten. You just don't try, though you might sit and marvel at how they differ from one another or how much they are alike.
Sometimes other readers bring a wonderful new aspect to a story. [Try Christina Pickles' reading of "Chivalry" from Selected Shorts or Lenny Henry's reading of "Anansi Boys."] But there are times when Neil is the best one to read his stories. His voice is comforting and gentle, even when the character he's reading is being matter-of-fact or coming to terrible realizations.
It's a funny thing to say that one story or another is more personal to an author. Any story well made is very much its authors, no matter how fantastic and far from autobiographical. This time it seems to be more intimate; that while this isn't autobiographical there's a lot of Neil's own character poured into this narrator.
I'm nearly fifty years old and I don't remember being scared by a book since I was very young. I've been anxious, enthralled, aching with suspense, burning with anticipation, or worried for a character I really liked, but never actually scared. Until this one.
This book scared me. Not because the images of the story felt threatening, but because it made me stop in a public place, look around me, and realize in a vivid way that the world is not always a good place.
It's in a good way—a constructive way. The very best way, because it shares a bit of wisdom and puts you on your guard against it. It's the same kind of fear as you might have of dragons, if you were afraid of dragons, and if you'd also heard Neil tell you G. K. Chesterton's ideas about how dragons can be beaten.
There are no dragons in this book. Not exactly. But maybe more horrible than dragons are the smallest terrors; the almost innocent ones.
There are people who like some of Neil Gaiman's works more than others. Not because the stories are better or worse, but because they're about different sorts of things. Some lean more towards "American Gods" while others are more eager for "Stardust." Still others will like Neil's episodes of "Doctor Who" best, and some will have complete collections of "Sandman" or know by heart which short stories are in which of his collections. [It's hard to think of any authors who have been as successfully prolific in so many different ways.]
What's special about "Ocean at the End of the Lane" is that it will be a book which is best loved by all the different kinds of Neil Gaiman fans. It has the essence that is the best of all his forms, yet is entirely new and takes us to wonderful new places. His craft is the best it has ever been.
"For whatever we lose (a you or a me) It's always ourselves we find in the sea." E.E. Cummings
Old Mrs. Hempstock. She would be a lot of fun, I think.
Letty - immutable and steadfast, but quick to laugh with a warm hand to hold. The best friend every child should have.
This book is beautiful and devastating all at once. At first I thought it was going to be the lush, delicious blanket of warmth Neil Gaiman has served up so well in the past, like in The Graveyard Book. But this is no children's book, not in the least. At one point I found myself shouting at the book in anger; at another point I was driving down the highway with tears streaming down my face.
Obviously I am a huge fan of Mr. Gaiman's, and I highly recommend this book.
Neil Gaiman is a wonderful, creative, evocative writer. I loved listening to this book. His language is magical and creates a world the reader can easily step into. And in the case of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, that world is scary. Is it real? Is it just the tortured memories of a young boy who channeled his real pain, and memories he can't face, into fairy tales and monsters in the dark. Or is it a bit of both.
For me, some aspects of the story were not so subtle hints at child abuse, both physical and emotional, not just normal childhood fears and imaginings. And I felt as if Gaiman abandoned the narrator to many years of neglect and abuse after the story ends. He might have been saved from the evil forces unleashed in the story, but was the narrator rescued from the real forces of pain and neglect he continued lived with? Are the narrator's adult lapses of memory about returning to the pond magical, or are they how the narrator is able to maintain his sanity? When the narrator accuses the evil force of controlling people's actions, she tells him that she didn't make anyone do anything they didn't want to. At that point, I saw the narrator as a child in danger.
Is life as hopeless for all of us as it is or was for the narrator? I hope not. I gave the story only three stars because it left me sad and concerned for a character whom I had come to care for. I know happy endings are a myth but everyone deserves some degree of contentedness. Our narrator still has no one at his birthday party.
Bright Eyed Dyer
This is the first audiobook version of any of Me. Gaiman's stories that I've listened to. I'm not sure which I enjoyed more, the story itself or his reading. truly wonderful.
A well written blend of fantasy, horror, and great literature. I'll look for more from this author.
I have been a book junky my whole life. When I listened to my first audiobook, I fell instantly in love! I have quite eclectic tastes.
Beautifully written. I love when the authors narrators. You enjoy the book through the eyes of the author. Wonderful story.
This audiobook reminded me of childhood, though I can't put my finger on just why it reminded me of mine. I loved every minute of it, and was so impressed with Gaiman's narration of his own work. It was a completely magical story, yet so relatable, whether I thought about it allegorical terms about common childhood pain or when I just stopped trying to do that and just let myself get absorbed in the fantasy.
I had read only one Neil Gaiman book prior to this one and I was annoyed by it more than I was charmed by it. After reading this one, I realize it might be that I enjoy his work more when audible rather than on page.
In any case, I highly recommend this to anyone who used to listen to grow ups tell tall tales while being simultaneously entranced and dubious. It was a lovely 5 or so hours.