Audie Award Finalist, Narration by the Author or Authors, 2014
Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, 2014
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.
©2013 Neil Gaiman (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers
Both elaborate and beautifully simple, the ocean at the end of the lane managed to provide much needed refreshment from the overly dark and "edgy" storytelling of today, while still leaving me thinking about it for weeks afterwards.
I purchased this book out of curiosity late one night, having thoroughly enjoyed good omens but never reading anything else by Neil Gaiman. My initial plan was to listen to it when I next found myself in a car for an extended period of time, but I decided to give it a 15 minute test to see if it was something I would be interested in. I put on my headphones, and the world around me disappeared until I heard the words "thank you for listening" and noticed the red 4:00 AM glaring from my nightstand.
Addressing a common concern, some people will tell you that ocean at the end of the lane feels more like a children's book than a novel, making the experience unenjoyable to a mature reader. While the book is certainly written in a simplistic style, I would draw a comparison to the book bridge to terabithia. The ocean at the end of the lane has an appeal similar to a more mature version of bridge to terabithia, while bridge to terabithia was both an exciting yet sad tale to younger audiences and a beautiful tragedy to mature audiences, the ocean at the end of the lane holds appeal to the mature reader, and the readers memories of childhood just waiting to escape and explore.
When looking for a way to describe the ocean at the end of the lane, a wonderful comparison is conveniently provided by its title. Listening to the book, I didn't feel like I was on the roller coaster of an a action novel,or exploring the rich world of a fantasy novel. It was sensation neither clean nor grungy, neither bright nor dark. I was submerged into an endless ocean, filled with strange things that I didn't understand, and didn't have to understand, because they weren't made to be presented to me, they were simply made to be. I felt as I was at an incredible depth, yet the sea still continued downwards, it secrets at once wondrous and terrifying. I ignored the trenches and abysses, studying each fleeting thing that was given to me with no true understanding of the ocean as a whole. In short, I felt like a kid, experienced a new world with the wonder and acceptance only my younger eyes could have managed.
The book is told from the point of view of a ~45 year old man, recalling the experiences of his 7 year old self. A suicide, an immortal family, and a malevolent spirit-like creature provide the structure for the boys tale of discovery. The character may be a simple one, especially compared to the backdrop, but I think its safe to say I was far more a part of this character than I have ever been a part of a character before. The unjaded eyes allow you to feel terror at childhood fears like being locked in the attic, but doesn't leave you undefended, allowing you to re experience the safety of resting by the hearth with a home cooked meal. Your attention, wonder, and terror are inevitably drawn to the boys ever changing focus, and it feels strangely right to be more entranced by a kitten purring on your pillow than the impossible world of magic around you, while being more deeply disturbed by a break in your constructs and routines of the way things should go then by the monster itself.
While pulling you back to your younger self, the ocean at the end of the lane doesn't take everything. While you may experience the story through young eyes it doesn't end their, being passed to your more experienced ability to ponder the abstract, churning away in the background. It rarely interferes with the story, but the second you set the book down (or your headphones) its workings slam into the forefront of you're mind, mixing your new wonder with some surprisingly deep themes and undercurrents, creating a mass of sensation and synthesis you can explore and combine for weeks after reading.
The ocean at the end of the lane provides complexity and depth in way I can only think to describe as free form. Rather than the token overly horrifying "See, look at this choice here, everything about its dark, that means its edgy and meaningful." we are seeing more and more in writing that attempts to convey a deeper meaning (Not that there's anything wrong with this when its done well, a la spec ops the line, but it often attempts to be far more serious than it actually is and comes off as a horrible attempt to be edgy, a la every cringeworthy brooding teen story), Neil Gaiman presents you with a world where any aspect seems worthy of pondering, and any elements or themes strongly implied, such as the boys conflicting feelings of inferiority compared to adults yet fear at becoming one, are used to tie the book together and generally presented organically.
I love reading many different styles of books. Lately, I have been more into fantasy (a trend started by a Song of Ice and Fire, that led me to the Mistborn Trilogy, The Kingkiller Chronicles, Wheel of Time...) The books that captivate me the most are the ones with the most well-thought characters and well told story... something mundane can be made wonderful by a good writer.
The narration, the fantastically scary little story, the way this man writes and speaks and writes all of it is just perfect. My second favorite audiobook (first one being Claire Dane's reading of The Handmaid's Tale)
This was my first Neil Gaiman novel and I wasn't sure what to expect. Both the story and narration were great. Easy to listen to and hard to put down. I finished the book in two sessions and will go back and read/listen to it again because it was so enjoyable. It makes me want to read other works by Neil Gaiman.
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.
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