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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Finalist, Narration by the Author or Authors, 2014

Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, 2014

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.

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. A stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

©2013 Neil Gaiman (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers

What listeners say about The Ocean at the End of the Lane

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Coraline for Adults

The synopsis for this book sounds like a contemporary fiction presented as a memoir, but I should have known better. Does Neil Gaiman ever write contemporary fiction? Of course not! This is Coraline for adults.

An ageing man travels back to his childhood home town and finds himself drawn to the farm at the end of the lane he grew up on. He's drawn to the duck pond on the far side of the farm. The closer he gets, the more he obeys the urge to come further onto the farm, the more he remembers a time from his childhood when he was seven. He had an adventure with an eleven-year-old girl named Lettie, but she'd been eleven for a very long time.

I'm writing this review immediately after finishing my first listen through the audiobook version, performed by Neil Gaiman himself, and I'm tempted to start it again. I'm kicking myself for not buying this book when it was brand new. I had it in my hands at Chapters, even! Well, better late than never.

I want to write more, but I don't want to give spoilers. I'll say I would classify this book as paranormal/dark fantasy, definitely adult, and perfect for any reader who enjoyed Gaiman's Coraline as a child and wants to read a grown-up story with the same feel.

8 people found this helpful

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  • X
  • 2018-09-13

A Beautiful Voice

This is one of the most beautiful, haunting books I’ve ever read. Neil Gaiman’s narrative voice, along with his deep, dynamic reading voice work together to tell a story that will force the reader deep inside themselves, exploring ideas of love, loss, sacrifice, memory, childhood, and what it means to grow up.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Gaiman’s performance makes the audiobook one of the best ways to experience this story.

#Audible1

6 people found this helpful

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Peculiar and Intriguing

I purchased this book after absolutely loving Norse Mythology by Gaiman. I wanted this one specifically because he was narrating it himself and I was not disappointed! What a fantastical, disturbing story it was. Onto the next!

3 people found this helpful

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Stunned

Absolutely amazing story. Will transport you to memories long forgotten. The book is the perfect length, coming in and being impactful without dragging on.

I would definitely recommend it.

2 people found this helpful

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exceptional

I'm late to the party on this one but felt the need to comment nonetheless. such a great book, an instant classic. the narration from the author is perfect. he has a soothing, intriguing voice, and obviously knows these characters inside and out so he brings them to life like no one else could. I would love to see a film adaptation of this dark, strange and fantastical tale.

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reality plus

The combination of Gaiman's writing and his reading drew me in to a sense of a reality just beyond our own. At times frightening and other times more soothing, this book has answered some of my "what if" questions and opened me up to other possible ways of writing.
I suspect I'm going to be listing to this story again more than once.

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An engaging story, skillfully performed

Disclaimer: I’m a rookie in Fantasy genre. In fact, this is my first fantasy novel.

I loved the voice and pitch in performance by Neil Gaiman. The story was engaging and especially in the middle.

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Lovely narration

If you’re a Narnia fan, this will be a great read. As an adult though, it was predictable.

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looooove this book

THIS IS ONE OF MY MOST FAVOURITEST BOOKS! So happy I could listen to it while working!

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Gut wrenching good!

This book made me feel like a child again, so much so that it felt like I experienced the memories of the seven-year-old narrator as my own. Terrifying and exhilarating all at once. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a great read.

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  • Talia
  • 2013-08-07

Gaiman delivers an intimate masterpiece

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.

97 people found this helpful

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  • Angelien
  • 2013-07-01

Feel like a kid again: powerless and terrified

I listened to the first two-thirds of this book while on a long drive, late at night, during a rainstorm. My little black-and-white cat was in her carrier in the passenger seat next to me. If there was ever a perfect environment in which to hear this book, that was it.

I can't give enough praise to Neil Gaiman for his performance here. In my opinion, the only person qualified to narrate Mr. Gaiman's books is himself. It's only fitting here, in any case, because I know the main character (unnamed) is sort-of semi-autobiographical.

Which brings me to my next point: regardless of the fact that the main character is a 7-year-old boy and I am a 29-year-old woman, I see so much of him in me. I was that kid who liked books more than people, believed adults to be both mysterious and all-powerful, and held faith that the world was full of magic and terror in equal proportions. Deep inside, I think I still am that kid, and that is what resonated with me most. We are all terrified 7-year-olds on the inside, hoping that someone is watching out for us because we really don't have as much control as we pretend to.

I cried during the epilogue. I couldn't help it. I was driving again, in the sun this time, on my way back home. There is one final realization the narrator makes at the end that both broke my heart and filled me with joy. I don't want to give away spoilers, but I hope that you'll know it when you hear it.

Please, please read this book. Or listen to it. Or better yet, do both. It's been a long time since I've felt this strongly about any book, but this is a masterpiece. You'll thank yourself at the end.

186 people found this helpful

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  • Cynthia
  • 2013-06-20

Shadows Dissolved in Vinegar

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.

[if this review helped you, please let me know by clicking Helpful.]

1,074 people found this helpful

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  • Ryan
  • 2013-08-14

The ocean we come from, and return to

This short novel will undoubtedly stand as one of Neil Gaiman's more beautifully written, poignant books. The protagonist is a middle-aged man leaving his father’s funeral for a visit to his childhood home, where the memories of his seven year old self still linger. There, he recalls strange, dark adventures -- a friend who seemed much older than her eleven years, travels between worlds, a kindly grandmother who is more than she seems, a babysitter who turns out to be a monster in disguise, and that the kind of monsters who remove monsters can be even more dangerous.

The dark fairy tale aspects, which won't be a surprise to readers of Gaiman's other books, feel both vividly original and hauntingly familiar, the stuff of universal childhood pretend worlds and nightmares. In this novel, though, it seems, he's intentionally blurring the lines between the fantastical and the real. One could easily read this story as an allegory for childhood imagination and the way it shapes the rest of our lives, even after we outgrow it. If so, I found a lovely sadness in that interpretation. As kids, we are both tormented and protected by things in our inner worlds, which give shape to an adult world that we don't yet understand, until we ourselves are pulled into that world's trials and temptations. Will our adult lives be worthy of our original selves? Will we remember the light of our inner friends, the cruelty and deception of our inner enemies? Will we ever again meet what we left behind?

I found the gentle, bittersweet way Gaiman reflects on these questions touching. The things we remember from childhood may, in one sense, only be a small, weedy duck pond, but, in another sense, they’re as big as an ocean, our foundational experience of being human.

And, of course, I can't neglect to mention how good Gaiman's reading of his own audiobook is. His throaty, enunciative voice is, well... him.

70 people found this helpful

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  • M. Spencer
  • 2013-08-06

Brilliant

It’s hard to put into words just how much I loved this novel. Neil Gaiman has an exceptional talent for writing what I like to think of as fairy tales for adults. He writes these stories that are so deeply imaginative and yet are so real, they just resonate with me like few other stories.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a simple, yet incredibly moving story. It was simply elegant storytelling. It took me back to my childhood and made me appreciate it in ways I never have before. It also made me insanely jealous of people that got to grow up in big, old houses on quite country lanes.

I listened to the audio of this novel and I have to believe that was the best way to experience it. Neil Gaiman is not only an amazing writer, but he really is a great narrator as well. I had hear him narrate The Graveyard Books so I knew what to expect, but I was still incredibly pleased with the result.

Honestly, this novel was just excellent. I would recommend it to anyone, not just science fiction or fantasy fans. Brilliant.

126 people found this helpful

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  • Julie W. Capell
  • 2013-10-29

Fantasy for readers of "certain age"

I was immediately captivated upon hearing the first few pages of “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” tacked on as a promo at the end of “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar.” The tale of a man, back in his childhood hometown on the occasion of a funeral, re-discovering something fantastic and magical at the end of the lane made me feel wistful, like I wanted some of my mother’s chocolate chip cookies. So I immediately ordered “The Ocean” and waited for those cookie-scented childhood memories to waft my way.

The book is for the most part a flashback, as the man of the first chapter recalls an adventure he had—or may not have had—as a young boy. As much as I liked the first chapter, much of the middle section of the book was just too icky for my taste. Intellectually, I understand the purpose of the scary parts but they were a bit graphic for my taste and jarred with other parts that were beautifully whimsical.

The end of the book did a nice job of bringing everything back full circle, and made several allusions to the author’s own life as an expatriate and (at one time) struggling artist. I got the idea that this book was more autobiographical than others I have read by Gaiman. The long view of life that the novel’s structure allows resonated with me as I believe it will for many other readers of a “certain age.”

I listened to this as an audio book read by Gaiman. He does a marvelous job here as with other readings I have heard from him.

37 people found this helpful

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  • Dave
  • 2013-07-03

Oh, the Wondrous Ocean!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane feels like none of Gaiman’s previous novels. It’s easily the most personal of his novels, tightly focused, and brief – like childhood remembered by an adult. It’s a story of memories as tangible as the sea – we know they happened, we even swam in it, but the waves continue to roll, and the landscape is seemingly ever changing. It’s memories as mythology, and it’d be cynical not to fall under it’s haunting spell.

It’s also a meditation on mortality, as told by a nameless narrator who has returned to England for his father’s funeral. Because of that, it’s impossible not to divorce our image of the narrator as Neil himself, giving this book a fantastical yet autobiographical sense – even moreso as an audiobook – which is part of the point. Readers and fans familiar with Gaiman via Twitter and his blog may remember reading about similar familiar events referenced in this book, although their memories will be distinctly different from what occurs in the story.

As one character says: “That’s the trouble with living things. Don’t last very long. Kittens on day, old cats next. And then just memories. And the memories fade and blend and smudge together.”

Memories should be cherished and treasured, like dreams, but perhaps they shouldn’t be completely trusted. And it’s what we do with those memories that count.

In spinning this story, Gaiman has woven himself into a new mythology all his own. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a reminder to adults of the wonders and mysteries of childhood, and encourages us to find those same pleasures as adults. It reminds us that just because we’re grown up, doesn’t mean it’s over, and we may still witness wondrous and mysterious things.

120 people found this helpful

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  • Derek B.
  • 2013-07-25

Gaiman might be the best reader I've ever heard

The ONLY thing that disappoints me with Neil Gaiman's writing is that he does not do enough of it to satisfy me. I was so happy to find that he wrote a new book and couldn't wait to put it in my short stack of must reads. Not only is he a great writter, but he might have the most pleasing voice that I have ever heard read an audiobook. As you can see, I had high hopes for this book and I'm happy to tell you that it didn't take long before I was assured of it's greatness. WOW, was that a great read! There are GREAT characters, a GREAT plot, the story was level-fluid smooth, and the ending is genuinly worth remembering. Here's a person that knows how to escape reality with a worth while tale and he has the skill to share it with others. He does it without dipping into the swearing, sex, and violence pool, that main stream writting usually swims in. What a gift Gaiman has! "The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel" was well worth my time and now has a place in my stack of books that I am saving to one day pass down to my children. That is a special stack to me, and yes, the book is that good.

50 people found this helpful

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  • Gregory
  • 2013-07-14

WOW!! This was GREAT!!

I have listened to Audible for many years, yet never been moved to write a review. This book was so good that I have listened to it twice within one week. It starts off in the real world and then slowly takes us into a fantasy world that I did not want to leave. Well done!

67 people found this helpful

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  • Bonny
  • 2013-06-23

Good, evil, power, powerlessness, family, & more..

How I wish I was enough of a wordsmith to craft the review that The Ocean at the End of the Lane deserves. I won’t do it a disservice and recount the plot; just do yourself a favor and read it – right now. It’s full of good, evil, power, powerlessness, family, and extraordinary friends.

A small taste: “Nobody actually looks like what they really are on the inside,” Lettie tells the boy. “Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world … Except for Granny, of course.”

I’ve always thought of audiobooks as equivalent to “real books”; they are just being read to me. Some narrators add to my enjoyment of the story, some detract, and some should not be allowed to read books out loud to anyone. Neil Gaiman is in a class by himself, both as an author and an audiobook narrator. His brilliant narration of his books is just that – brilliant. I was surprised to read this on his blog, “I'm more nervous about the audiobooks than I am about anything else.” No need to be nervous, Neil! When I next encounter a magical being willing to grant me three wishes, one of my wishes is going to be for Neil Gaiman to read me stories as good as The Ocean at the End of the Lane every night.

144 people found this helpful

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  • Deziba
  • 2020-11-10

Anothe great story from Neil Gaiman

Story of a unnamed 7 years old boy and Lettie Hampstock, 11 (but much much more in reality) living in the farm at the end of the lane, narrated by the author.
Full of immagination and deep thoughts which make you think a lot. As always with Neil Gaiman’s novels. If you like fantasy worlds existing within the real one (or within us?) told as a faded memory of a man returning to his childhood this novel will be for you. Thank you Neil for another great story.

1 person found this helpful

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  • isabelle
  • 2016-07-10

Une histoire de passage...

Neil Gaiman m'a emmenée, at the end of the lane, où les contours du monde sont différents. J'ai pris la main du narrateur et j'ai partagé la violence des émotions de l'enfance, loin du conte de fée. Une histoire racontée avec toute la sensibilité de l'auteur.

1 person found this helpful