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
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
Neil Gaiman's "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" (2013) begins with a quote by Maurice Sendak, "I remember my own childhood vividly. I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn't let adults know I knew. It would scare them." Sendak's quote is an apt warning.
"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is about a child, but, as Gaiman has made clear, it is not a book for children. Gaiman takes the worst nightmares of childhood (I had forgotten them myself, but no more) and binds them together into a compelling story.
Remember stepping on something sharp and worrying for days or weeks that it would kill you? But not telling your parents . . . Agonizing about the possibility no one would come to your birthday party? Being locked in an attic? Clothes that come to life and grab you? Worrying that your father will truly get so mad at you he will actually try and kill you? The babysitter who is vicious to you but sweet to your parents? Those fears are all in "The Ocean at the End of the Lane," wrapped up in parental preoccupation, indifference, and bewilderment at the 7 year old boy who finds a savior in the remarkable Lettie Hempstock.
Lettie lives at the end of the lane, with her mother and grandmother, near a pond that is the ocean. The reason the pond is an ocean and the remarkable powers of the Hempstock women are, to some extent, reminiscent of Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" (1988).
The story is intriguing on many levels, and Gaiman is an excellent narrator. I only wish I'd been able to listen to this curled up in a blanket with a cup of hot tea, instead of in my car, stuck behind a Cooper Mini for an interminable amount of time.
The title of this review is from a trade Lettie makes to get the tokens she needs to save her 7 year old friend. The eerie magic stuck with me.
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I'm a big fan of SF/F/Horror, and all things in between and out.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane feels like none of Gaiman’s previous novels. It’s easily the most personal of his novels, tightly focused, and brief – like childhood remembered by an adult. It’s a story of memories as tangible as the sea – we know they happened, we even swam in it, but the waves continue to roll, and the landscape is seemingly ever changing. It’s memories as mythology, and it’d be cynical not to fall under it’s haunting spell.
It’s also a meditation on mortality, as told by a nameless narrator who has returned to England for his father’s funeral. Because of that, it’s impossible not to divorce our image of the narrator as Neil himself, giving this book a fantastical yet autobiographical sense – even moreso as an audiobook – which is part of the point. Readers and fans familiar with Gaiman via Twitter and his blog may remember reading about similar familiar events referenced in this book, although their memories will be distinctly different from what occurs in the story.
As one character says: “That’s the trouble with living things. Don’t last very long. Kittens on day, old cats next. And then just memories. And the memories fade and blend and smudge together.”
Memories should be cherished and treasured, like dreams, but perhaps they shouldn’t be completely trusted. And it’s what we do with those memories that count.
In spinning this story, Gaiman has woven himself into a new mythology all his own. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a reminder to adults of the wonders and mysteries of childhood, and encourages us to find those same pleasures as adults. It reminds us that just because we’re grown up, doesn’t mean it’s over, and we may still witness wondrous and mysterious things.
Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reader
It’s hard to put into words just how much I loved this novel. Neil Gaiman has an exceptional talent for writing what I like to think of as fairy tales for adults. He writes these stories that are so deeply imaginative and yet are so real, they just resonate with me like few other stories.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a simple, yet incredibly moving story. It was simply elegant storytelling. It took me back to my childhood and made me appreciate it in ways I never have before. It also made me insanely jealous of people that got to grow up in big, old houses on quite country lanes.
I listened to the audio of this novel and I have to believe that was the best way to experience it. Neil Gaiman is not only an amazing writer, but he really is a great narrator as well. I had hear him narrate The Graveyard Books so I knew what to expect, but I was still incredibly pleased with the result.
Honestly, this novel was just excellent. I would recommend it to anyone, not just science fiction or fantasy fans. Brilliant.
I listened to the first two-thirds of this book while on a long drive, late at night, during a rainstorm. My little black-and-white cat was in her carrier in the passenger seat next to me. If there was ever a perfect environment in which to hear this book, that was it.
I can't give enough praise to Neil Gaiman for his performance here. In my opinion, the only person qualified to narrate Mr. Gaiman's books is himself. It's only fitting here, in any case, because I know the main character (unnamed) is sort-of semi-autobiographical.
Which brings me to my next point: regardless of the fact that the main character is a 7-year-old boy and I am a 29-year-old woman, I see so much of him in me. I was that kid who liked books more than people, believed adults to be both mysterious and all-powerful, and held faith that the world was full of magic and terror in equal proportions. Deep inside, I think I still am that kid, and that is what resonated with me most. We are all terrified 7-year-olds on the inside, hoping that someone is watching out for us because we really don't have as much control as we pretend to.
I cried during the epilogue. I couldn't help it. I was driving again, in the sun this time, on my way back home. There is one final realization the narrator makes at the end that both broke my heart and filled me with joy. I don't want to give away spoilers, but I hope that you'll know it when you hear it.
Please, please read this book. Or listen to it. Or better yet, do both. It's been a long time since I've felt this strongly about any book, but this is a masterpiece. You'll thank yourself at the end.
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
Little British boy meets intriguing odd young Hettie and her mother on an old quirky farm. While dabbling in another world, oddities come to life bringing about dire consequences for all around.
Interesting shell of a world, lacks depth and backstory for characters. Gaiman is a wonderfully descriptive writer as with the family home where you can see yourself running down the meadow looking for a hole in the fence and smell and taste the blackberry jam in the porridge. Lacking are the threads to tie together all the fanciful ideas to draw you in. I didn't love the book, but parts were inventive, clever and found the ending rewarding. Having the author narrate is always pleasant as he/she can add expression in all the right places.
As with all of Neil Gaiman's books I enjoy the confined small, but huge feel to the story. I like the sparse few characters which all have an important role to play. I enjoy the slow learning about the roles and that at the end you still want to know more, but are left wanting.
I would compare it to Graveyard Book also by Neil Gaiman. I would make this comparison because it too has the same small, but important story to tell. It too has the same sparse list of characters that you don't get to know everything about. It too leaves you wanting to know more.
Neil Gaiman unlike many other authors narrating brings a feeling to the books future state that he communicates through inflection that you don't get otherwise and would not get through all, but the most skilled of narrators.
I would take old Mrs. Hempstock to dinner. She being the oldest and wisest of the Hempstock women and seeming to be the most open to discuss honestly the early history of the universe.
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.
I'm a corporate training consultant and adjunct professor who loves to read! I'm always looking for the next big thing.
I was so lucky to have stumbled upon this book. I was fortunate enough to read the first part of the book as a preview that was included in another one of Neil Gaiman's books. Once I read that preview, I knew that I would read the entire book when it was published. I am glad that I did--it was great!
This book tells the story of a many who returns to his childhood hometown for a funeral. While there, he recalls a strange memory from his childhood that involved a neighborhood girl and her duck pond, which she always referred to as her ocean. The recollections are--at first--very pleasant; however, they take a frightening turn before too long.
Most of the story is told from the perspective of the young boy--the unnamed boy in the memory. Because of this, the book starts off very nicely. In many ways, I was reminded of my own childhood by some of the memories. This is what drew me into the story. It is not until slightly further along in the story that I realized this book was no longer just a childhood tale.
The boy's neighbors are supernatural beings in some way (which is never made entirely clear). Through a rather unfortunate sequence of events, the boy gets wrapped up in the supernatural occurrences around his neighborhood. That's when things start to get very dark. There is a particular scene in the book involving the boy's babysitter that was so creepy that it actually made me cringe while reading it--and believe it or not, I think that's a good thing!
I haven't read too many other Neil Gaiman books, but I will certain do so now that I read this one. The story was interesting, and the characters are quite memorable. If his other books have these same qualities and can also creep me out just a bit, then I'll be in for many more reads by Neil Gaiman.
I have listened to Audible for many years, yet never been moved to write a review. This book was so good that I have listened to it twice within one week. It starts off in the real world and then slowly takes us into a fantasy world that I did not want to leave. Well done!
I love to read books; and now just recently I've discovered that audio books are very cool!! I'm also an author. You can find the SciFi book "The Curse of Europa" here on Audible or on Amazon.
At first I was a little hesitant of listening to an author read his own book. Authors can usually write a great story, but not many can speak a great story (myself included.) But Gaiman made it work! One benefit of the author reading their own story is that they know exactly HOW the dialog was intended to be delivered. They know where they want inflection, where it should be whispered, or exasperated, etc.
I like Science Fiction, good straight-up realistic SciFi! This is not SciFi, it is fantasy. But... I liked it. I liked it a lot. Gaiman tells a great story (both in his writing and in his narration). Half the time I thought the boy in the story was me at that age. I can't think of anything I didn't like about the story and the ending was perfect.
Quite high up!
I'd say it compares to most of what Gaiman writes. If you're a Gaiman fan, you'll most likely enjoy this book. If you're not a Gaiman fan, then I guess you haven't read any of his books... :)
There's something special about authors reading their own books, particularly when they do it as well as Gaiman does.
Yes. I almost did.
Time and time again Neil Gaiman shows what an good writer he is. This is no exception.
"Neil Gaiman does it again"
This book is more in line with The Graveyard Book rather than American God from a Gaiman perspective if you are a fan. It is very well told by Gaiman himself and the story is excellent. His writing is very clever and you won't be let down if you decide to buy/cash in a credit. That said I think that the Graveyard Book is better, but some people may prefer this one for reasons I can't say without giving too much away!
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