Audiobook Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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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.

This is probably my second favorite book by Neil Gaiman.

That doesn’t say much, as I have difficulty getting through his books.  His writing style doesn’t appeal to me – too slow-paced for my liking – but his imagination is incredible.  He is the purveyor of faerie tales, most darker than we would like, but they seem to root themselves into the world like inherent truths long forgotten.  It’s that mystique that keeps me going back to Gaiman’s work.  Ocean is not at all lacking in that regard.

The Hempstocks are as alive and well and incredible as Yvaine or Coraline or Shadow.  Each one has her own bubble of personality, ability, wit, and charm.  In many ways, I think that Hempstock farm and the ocean may be as remarkable a place as any Gaiman has written to date.  They are easily brought to life, and you are wrapped up in them.

The problem is, as a reader you get a very definite feeling you are only experiencing one tiny little piece of the story.  It’s a sliver or a subplot, but not the whole tale.  As the reader it’s very frustrating to have a lot of questions about this greater world, and to receive almost no answers.  I want to know more about these ageless women and their abilities and battles, but that is not the story that Gaiman told.  Nor is it the story he ever tells, not really.

And in that jumble… that is why I both like and greatly disliked this book.  The faerie tale nature of it makes it a contender on my “to buy” list… but the storytelling itself makes it one I won’t revisit for a while.

Stats
Series: n/a / Publisher: HarperAudio / Genre(s): Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Magical Realism, Audiobook, Adult / Format: Digital Audiobook / Runtime: 5 hours, 48 minutes / Released: 2013

Keywords
magic / survival / good & evil / england / memory / women / boys / early memories

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