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Publisher's Summary

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

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Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Boring

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Obviously, lots of readers seemed to like this, but this book did nothing for me. After the intriguing first few chapters, it just spun further and further into fantasyland and seemed to go nowhere. The prose was colorful, but put to no purpose.

Has The Ocean at the End of the Lane turned you off from other books in this genre?

I am going to think long and hard before diving into a book that deals with fantasy or children's fears.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Ryan
  • CA, United States
  • 07-04-13

Good, but you gotta know and love Gaiman

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...

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Gaiman is the master of the written word.

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 06-18-13

Gaiman's Fantasy Bildungsroman

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.

64 of 89 people found this review helpful

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Me Like It :)

Any additional comments?

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. <br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.<br/>

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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A Haunting, "Grown-Up" Fairytale

“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.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Enchanting and eerie

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.

Highly recommended.

15 of 21 people found this review helpful

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Aesop in The Twilight Zone

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!

51 of 74 people found this review helpful

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  • Wayne
  • Matthews, NC
  • 05-18-16

Why should I waste my time on literary garbage?

Neil Gaiman is a tremendously successful and highly celebrated author. Many, many people find his works worthwhile and enchanting. I am not one of them!

I honestly tried to listen to The Ocean at the End of the Lane twice on two separate days and managed to finally get through 100 minutes before giving up. My impression is that the book is too boring and stupid to waste time listening.

16 of 23 people found this review helpful

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Pass

Waste of time! This story was so off the wall, I had a hard time following it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful