The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Neil Gaiman
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*Published June 18, 2013*
I have grown more and more attached to Neil Gaiman’s writing each and every year, especially ones that take a look at the small magical things of life, or at what childhood magic would be thought of now that we are adults. And the more I read his books, the more I wish to see the magic that still exists in the world and I’m working on it, but it still may be some time before I see the magic that I used to take for granted.
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 Lane is 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.
Oh, the inexplicable magic and terror of being a child again. This is what this book brings to the table and it’s one that reminds me just a little bit about being a child. Granted, I still act like a child sometimes, so it’s still there, but being an adult crowds it out sometimes.
What we have here is a middle-aged man who returns to his childhood neighborhood, and to the house at the end of the lane where his own home used to stand and he visits with the women there about a girl who used to live there; Lettie, a girl who was more than a girl, who knew more than a girl, but was still a girl as well. Once our narrator is sitting by the duck pond in the yard he used to play in, he starts to remember. Remember more than he had ever forgotten about his childhood, and about the ocean at the end of the lane and about Lettie, the girl who introduced him to it.
He remembers what it was like to be a child, a child who had a kitten, and made a new friend. But he lost his kitten and his friend and that time was hidden from him. It wasn’t because he was bad and thus needed to forget, but it was because he needed to be protected from this time of magic and wonder, as well as to know that the ocean and Lettie would always be there for him and he could know that our childhoods never truly leave us, or the magic they instill in us, but they can be forgotten and left behind if we are not careful.
I love listening to Neil Gaiman narrate this book and I will say that listening to it lends it a strength it doesn’t quite have if you read it yourself. You can hear Neil Gaiman remember bits and pieces of a childhood long forgotten and know that he will forget it again once he leaves, but you also know that he as the narrator also knows that he can come back and remember again should he ever feel the need to do so.
This is a wonderful book and I will say that if you have read it once, then you should read it again, now that you’re a bit older and hopefully a bit wiser. And, if you can, listen to it. Listen to Neil Gaiman bring this story to life and know that this is happening to us as well. Or, it could be happening to us as the reader.
What about you? Do you want to remember your childhood? Or do you think we forget as we grow older to protect ourselves? Comment below and let me know!