Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
(William Morrow, 2013)
Format: audio via Audible (read by Neil Gaiman)

From Goodreads: 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.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Laneis 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. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark."

Unlike the rest of the world, I thoroughly enjoy Neil Gaiman. (In case my dry tone doesn’t convey, I know that the rest of the world agrees.) Ocean is his new novel for adults, although the story primarily takes place when the narrator is a young boy. We get cats magical and sometimes malevolent, a clearly malevolent nanny who once was a worm or perhaps an evil spirit, and a strong family of witchy women who may not be as straightforward as they appear.

It all weaves a strong web around the reader, and Gaiman’s superb narrative skills only add to the spell. He really is the gold standard of writers narrating their own work, and I’ll always go for audio when I’m looking at a new Gaiman. (Or rereading one from my pre-audiobook-obsession-days.) (As long as it's not illustrated.) So although this wasn’t my very very favorite of his (that would be Anansi Boys), there is everything good here to recommend it. With everything he does, jumping from genre to genre and all kinds of concepts, there is always something just so very Gaiman about his work that guarantees I’ll be absorbed and enchanted.

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