The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Patrick Mahon

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Today is publication day for 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane', Neil Gaiman's latest book for adults. Anyone got it?

I was lucky enough to go to an event last night in London at which Neil spoke about this new book, about many of his previous books, and about many other things besides. He was very funny, open and thoughtful, and I was very happy to get the chance to hear him 'live'.

It wasn't a signing, per se, but he had signed lots of copies of the book beforehand, so I managed to buy a signed copy afterwards. I'm now looking forwards to getting stuck in. :)

Anyone else read 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' yet? What do you think?
 

Mouse

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Nope, but I want to get it. Heard lots of good things about it.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I've had this one on my amazon Wish List for a while to remind me that I probably want it, and have been waiting for the release date and the Kindle sample. Downloaded that a few hours ago, and when I read it will decide whether to order it or not (probably the physical book).
 

GOLLUM

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Am waiting for mine to arrive.
Serious?

They arrived last weekend in the bookstores here.

Perhaps the current smog bound conditions you are experiencing are hampering delivery?...:rolleyes:

A work colleague of mine has already read their copy and gave it the big thimbs up..particularly the ending.

I've not read my copy yet. It's quite short being a novella, definitely something that can be consumed in a single sitting.
 

Rodders

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Tempted, but i haven't been reading too much lately.
 

The Bluestocking

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Just finished reading it and I think it's really really lovely. It's very Gaiman in its surreal tone and unexpected flights of imagination.

It's one of those books that absolutely hold up to repeated reads.
 

Hermit the frog

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Finished reading it a week or two ago. It is the first Gaiman book I’ve read. What a pleasant surprise and not what I expected. I thought it was beautifully written, a sort of bitter sweet experience. It’s so nice to read something that comes across as original. On the back of that read I’ve bought American Gods for my Kindle. A couple of chapters in and already I can see it’s a different style, but enjoying it.
 

Juliana

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Read this last night; like Hermit, this was the first Gaiman book I've read, though I've dipped into his short stories. Beautiful.
 

Richiehead

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Well I have to say we have another Neil Gaiman Male Protagonist here ! Basically the bloke does nothing except sit on a fence. We know very little about him, now old he is, what he’s done with his life – even whose funeral it is that he’s just been to. Even in the main childhood flashback sequence, it seems that’s he’s continuously reacting to events rather than setting them in motion. The only time he actually does something positive, it has disastrous consequences. Though that is partly the whole point of the book – the powerlessness of being a child in an adults universe.


The other thing that struck me is that this isn’t a Neil Gaiman book. I’ve only read a few of his (and none of the comicbook stuff), but the narrative style of Ocean is quite noticeably different. In fact, this is as close to a Diana Wynne Jones book as makes no difference. Diana of course was, in many ways, Neil’s mentor, and she died not long before Ocean was published. So I’m not sure if this is an intentional tribute or not. It is a very good DWJ nook though.


[MINOR SPOILERS]

Ocean has elements of a number of DWJ stories. The whole awakening of suppressed memories business is reminiscent of “Fire and Hemlock” (Hempstock ?) ; the 1930/40s girls stories remind me of ”The Lives of Christopher Chant”, and the idea of autobiographical childhood reminiscences having to be written as fantasy otherwise no-one would believe them Is much like “Time of the Ghost”.


Having said all that, I know a large amount about the protagonist because he is me ! There is so much here that ties up with my own experience of growing up in the 1960s it’s unbelievable. In the end I had to Google to find out how old Neil is – and he’s almost exactly one year younger than me.

So if you take out the fantasy elements this is my childhood in print. In fact, you don’t even need to remove all the fantasy. We grew monsters at the end of our garden- literally. Plants that were the nearest living thing to Triffids. There was a house that I had to leave when I was 10 – I guess that was the end of my childhood, though I didn’t realise it at the time. There was also an older house in a large garden, where my mother grew up, and I lived until I was 3. I remember the house, but not living there. The only difference is that both these houses still exist, though in nothing like the form they used to. There is even the love of all things Gilbert & Sullivan – though my own favourite was always Pirates of Penzance. There was even a (completely forgotten) Lettie Hempstock in my life.


[ MAJOR SPOILER]

My copy of Ocean has an interview with Neil at the end. And I’m SO glad that he’s intending to bring back Lettie at some stage. She deserved better that to be sacrificed so some wimp (and I speak from experience, remember) could live. Reconciliation with the protagonist would be nice, but then again she would still be 11 wouldn’t she, and he would be in his 50s. In fact I suspect Lettie can only come back to life once the protagonist dies. And I’m thinking that there is only one Hampstock woman – we just see her at 3 different stages of her life, folded back on herself though time.

And, finally, I now can’t stop singing the nightmare song from Iolanthe !!

Oh yes, and why did I keep thinking the action took place in the area around Luton, rather than Sussex ? [ That’s not to do with own experience – I grew up in Derbyshire ]
 

zlogdan

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Neil Gaiman definitely meets "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" archetype when he creates his protagonists. They all start fragile as if taken out of nowhere and incapable of being a real hero but as the story progresses that is what they become. At "Ocean.." however the protagonist is not the hero, just a child who makes a real good friend who is/are her/themselves the actual hero(es).

Neil said that he wrote this story as a gift to his spouse Amanda but it turned to be so good that he made it a book, which I agree, it is too short.
I read this book in an afternoon which is a rare thing for me these days - which reminds me I need to re read this.

I honestly think the writing style is similar to his other books so are the mythical settings and use of ancient mythology elements as well as pure traditional English lifestyle. I also felt some connections with American Gods universe.
 

Paul_C

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I've got to read this again sometime because I've enjoyed just about everything Neil Gaiman has written but thought this to be the weakest (actually I thought it was rubbish)

It might be because I'd just read Terry Pratchett's Raising Steam, which I found very painful to read as it felt like a collage of bits from previous books stuck together with sellotape, and it made me very sad for him and the dreadful curse he was working under.

It might also have been around the time I got very annoyed with David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks and Neal Stephenson's Reamde so I wasn't feeling very charitable towards Authors I Had Previously Loved ;)
 

Son of Valhalla

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This was actually the first book I read by Neil Gaiman. It was a lovely read, and somewhat thought-provoking. Nostalgic, in a word.
 

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