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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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741 of 790 people found this review helpful
If you're a Neil Gaiman fan, prepare to be surprised by the intimate tone of his latest book. Gaiman's story - magical, remarkable and dark - is perhaps his most revealing work to date.
As I read this book, I felt Gaiman was sharing bits and bobs of his own childhood, skillfully woven into the fictional narrative. The result was the feeling that I was reading a somewhat biographical account of his own life.
I will never be able to do justice to this story. All I can say is go read this book and be prepared to laugh, to cry and be given a glimpse into this amazing man's life.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
Where does The Ocean at the End of the Lane rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
Quite high up!
What other book might you compare The Ocean at the End of the Lane to, and why?
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... :)
What does Neil Gaiman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
There's something special about authors reading their own books, particularly when they do it as well as Gaiman does.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Yes. I almost did.
Any additional comments?
Time and time again Neil Gaiman shows what an good writer he is. This is no exception.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I was afraid to hear him read it himself because I already had a voice in my head that I attributed to him and I didn't want to be disappointed and find that my expectations had been too high. I have that fear no more. The story swept me away and his voice was the swell and ebb of the waves. Thank you sir for offering me a safe place of imagination .