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
The story along with the narrator took me to all the places it meant to. Not my typical read, but was engrossed, all in. I was captivated by the simple innocence of the characters such a refreshing escape.
This was my first Neil Gaiman novel. I love his writing - it's vivid and real and magical. It really causes you to see the world through a child's eyes again. It's not exactly a book for children, as there are some pretty adult elements in the plot and themes. But the adults who enjoy it will be those who still love a good adventure story or fairytale, and who are happy to revisit childhood along with the main character.
Interestingly, this is an adult book narrated mostly from child's point of view. Gaiman does his own narration, and as usual, his voice is hypnotic. It's a tale of a bookish boy with no friends. When he finally makes a friend, she turns out to be--well, not human, really.
There are elements of the horror that ensues when parents behave unlike themselves and grownups aren't who they appear to be--all themes Gaiman has used successfully in his wildly popular children's books. His protagonist sees with clear, if not totally comprehending eyes, and knows he will not be believed. While he gains powerful friends, it is his own actions that determine the outcome as he faces down unthinkable threats against him.
This is a smaller story than "American Gods" or "Anansi Boys," but I found it thoroughly satisfactory.
I don't know what else to say beyond the headline. This book makes my heart happy. It was sad and beautiful and compelling and simple. And it leaves you feeling precisely at the narrator feels. It touches you.
I'm having a really hard time with my rating on this one. As I described to a friend, I more than just "liked it" (three stars), but I don't think I "really liked it" (four stars). I quite enjoyed it, but there's no three and a half stars. I'm so torn! I'll defer to four, because that feels better, but know, kind reader, that that four stands for a strong three and a half.
I used Whispersync for Voice to alternate between the Kindle and Audible editions. Neil Gaiman is a fantastic narrator, and I really enjoyed listening to him read me his words. He's also a terribly talented writer, imaginative and magical and able to evoke wonder and other emotions in a way few I've read can.
I have to first note that this book is surprisingly short. While being billed as his first "adult" novel (although I'm admittedly unclear on what makes a "young adult" novel different than a novel, flat out, aside from marketing speak) in a while, I'm reasonably sure that more than a few Animorphs novels were longer. And that's not necessarily a downside, but it was a little surprising.
What was there was great, though. It was whimsical and (I'll keep using this word) magical, as a man revisits areas special to him as a child and remembers the (for lack of a better word) adventures he and a very interesting friend had.
In his Afterword, he does say that this began as a short story before growing. And it does feel like it. While a lot of the ideas and concepts really benefit from being unexplained and even only half-glimpsed sometimes, there felt like there could be a lot more story than what there was. Lettie and the narrator's friendship felt strangely rushed, and I didn't feel like I could really fall in love with her character specifically, as opposed to her family in general. Maybe that was the point.
There were some notable quotations from the book that I loved, but at the end of the day, I feel like I've enjoyed a good meal; it was tasty, went down well, and while a few notes will stick with me, now that it's done it's just a pleasant memory.
It's short enough that I can easily recommend it to just about anyone. I'm not sure it's traditional summer reading, exactly, but it felt like a good, easy and touching read for a calm day when you're looking for something with a little more heart than a popcorn novel.
This is the best best audiobook I've listened so far because of Gaiman's performance. So touching, precise and well delivered.
It'd say Ocean is a simpler version of American Gods but in the sense of peaking behind the curtain again and showing things there are and things that can be a whole lot more than we see. It also brings that clash of worlds feeling constant in Gaiman's work in such a peculiar and touching way that it's impossible not to fall in love with.
Mixing memories and make belief, Gaiman narrates trivial moments of a young boy's life with precision and truthfulness. When the protagonist has to make a run for his life, and down is the only possibility, you cheer for him, you want to go in and help him climb down, you share his fears and hopes. It's very intense. So is the prologue that ties it all together and changes the perspective of the whole story, specially if you wisely decided NOT TO read the sinopses.
Yes, I wish I could have listened it all non-stop.
Great sound quality, working well on external speakers and several types of headphones. Good editing.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a real treat. Neil Gaiman's narration gives a haunting personal quality to the piece. His voice driving the story makes it feel deeply intimate and adds an extra layer of interest to the (somewhat sedate) plot line. I do wish the book was a bit meatier. It went by so quickly, I was left wishing for something more. This can be seen as a positive or a negative, depending on the mood of the listener. It is a slow book with lots of descriptive language. I recommend listening to this book without multitasking. I found if most enjoyable when I listened undistracted, and could most enjoy the language and story unfold.
This was like a Doctor Who story - if the Doctor was a 12 year old girl and the companion was a 7 year old boy, and the TARDIS is a duck pond! Other than that, exactly he same! As only can be told by Neil Gaiman!
Lettie, the 12 year old, who shows what it is to sacrifice for a loved one.
I only regret that it was as short as it was. I wanted to stay in that world longer. I also regret that I will, yet again, have another lengthy wait for Neil's next novel!
The only author I know that could also be a professional narrator, arguably the only author in last 10 years that would compare to Steven King...
To Neil Gaiman devotees, I would say that The Ocean at the End of the Lane is as magical as the rest, and as usual, transports us from customary surroundings through unassuming tokens to magic deep and dark. To find small fault, I thought this novel without the same degree of character relationship that we see in his very best works, like Neverwhere, or for novels with child protagonists, The Graveyard Book. Although the inventiveness and language are as good, I found myself less involved with the characters.
To those who have not read Neil Gaiman, this is a very good book and a fine choice to start with, but I still recommend anyone not familiar with his work to start with Neverwhere
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