18 February 2014

Audiobook Review: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane
Author(s): Neil Gaiman
Genre(s): Fantasy, Horror, Young Adult
Publisher/Date: William Morrow Books / June 18, 2013
Series: Stand Alone
I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.” -Unnamed Narrator
Case Study
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, 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, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

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. (synopsis from Goodreads)

The Game's Afoot 
Neil Gaiman is a legend in the literary world. His books are all smart, beautifully written and full of wonder. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is no exception. Admittedly, I've only read one other book by Gaiman, American Gods, and it's a very different sort of story than this one. I wasn't really sure what to expect from his YA, but it definitely wasn't this. Ocean might be a story written for kids, but it's undoubtedly one that's meant more for adults. There's a sadness and isolation to the book that goes hand in hand with the narrator's loss of innocence, with the pain of growing up.

Like in most of Gaiman's other works, magic touches everything in Ocean. And like the background mythology, the magic here is old. There's a quietness, a subtlety to it which lends to the story's very dream-like quality. It also helps that Gaiman narrated the audiobook, so the story is read as it was meant to be read. The narration was like poetry, smooth and rhythmic, lulling the listening deeper and deeper into the story. Gaiman is a wordsmith like no other. His words are so simple yet effective, stimulating to every one of the senses. And the story easily flows from one event to the next, the moments ebbing and flowing like the soft breeze over a gentle sea. 

One of the coolest things about this book was the presence of such strong female figures, taken in the form of the Hempstock women. I really loved the mother/maiden/crone dynamic between them. Honestly, they were the ones that drew me in and they were the ones that kept me riveted to the page. I guess the only thing that really threw me was the ending. I read this book over a week ago and now that I've had time to digest it, I still don't know what to think. It raised more questions than answers and lacked and overall feeling of completeness. These are just a few of the questions I still have: Did the boy take away anything at all from his experience? If not, what was the point? Was he worth Lettie's existence? Lettie thought so, but I'm not so sure.

Despite my reservations about the ending, I was really impressed by Ocean. It's a story unlike any other---dark, terrifying and wonderful---one that's beautifully written and superbly spoken by the man, the master, Neil Gaiman.

Summary Prognosis
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is an exquisite story written by the master of wordsmiths, Neil Gaiman. This book is about the power of childhood and adulthood and loss all rolled into one frighteningly magical journey through one man's memory. It will stimulate both your senses and your mind and leave you wanting more. In a word, it's simply beautiful.

Rating: ★★★★

Read It: AmazonBarnes & Noble | Audible  
Discuss It: Goodreads Author's Website


  1. I hate to admit this but I still haven't read anything but Neil Gaiman. :(

    1. WHAAAAT?! I'd say this is a pretty good starter...


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