Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Narrator: Neil Gaiman
Audiobook Length: 5 hours, 48 minutes
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 18 June 2013
Bottom Line: Perfect blend of fantasy and horror
“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.”
Thoughts: Mr. Gaiman makes the fantastic realistic. His use of fantasy is never outlandish or exaggerated. Instead, everything gets the same level of gravitas, whether it is an element of fiction or not. He never focuses on the how or whys of something. Things are what they are and require no further explanation. Much like a child accepts the existence of the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus, readers matter-of-factly accept the existence of magic, little girls who have been alive for hundreds of years, and ponds that are really oceans.
Of even more importance however is the childlike wonder he instills in everything. In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, it is so easy to forget one’s true age when reading the story as all of the descriptions and emotions revive a level of innocence that only exists in children. The world in general is simpler, while the physical elements of the world are more vibrant and alive. Everything takes on a new meaning, as if seeing something as basic as a tree for the very first time. It makes the entire experience more magical.
Neil Gaiman has one of the best voices, so listening to him narrate audiobooks is always a treat. Because he is reading his own book makes The Ocean at the End of the Lane an even better audio experience. He knows how the characters sound, knows the right places for dramatic pauses, knows what each of the characters are feeling at any given time, and all of this knowledge flows through to his performance. Mr Gaiman is one of the best examples of an author-narrator out there.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is exactly what one has come to expect from Mr. Gaiman. However, this time, he draws on his own childhood to flesh out some of the details of the farm in Sussex and the Hempstock family. This personal connection adds an air of intimacy to the story and makes what occurs even more believable because of his seamless blending of fact and fantasy. The resulting experience is simple and fun with the right balance of horror and whimsy and a perfect way to spend a few hours reading.