The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Author: Neil Gaiman
Reader: Neil Gaiman
Short Review: An excellent new dark fantasy for adults, read by the author.
Long Review: It’s probably obvious to any regular BooksForEars reader that Jeanne and I are fans of Gaiman’s work. I waited on pins and needles for this book’s release. When I learned that Gaiman would read the audio version I was particularly excited. I adore the professional readers who narrated American Gods and Anansi Boys, but there’s a special depth that a talented author can add when they read their own work. I have a bias in this direction–I’m a poet and storyteller, and if I had my druthers, I’d deliver all of my pieces directly from my mouth to my audience’s ears.
This is Gaiman’s first novel aimed at adults for several years. The story opens as the speaker returns to his childhood home for a funeral and recounts a series of events that occurred in his childhood. As ever, Gaiman is focused on mythology, and the speaker which he explores through the speaker’s interactions with his neighbors, the Hempstocks. While most of Gaiman’s stories tend towards the dark, this novel is awash in threats to the speaker and his family, and the tone is less optimistic than it tends to be in his books for children.
Gaiman is an excellent reader, as ever. His pacing and diction are lovely, and he has a unique understanding of the tone of the novel. Because the speaker in the novel is never named, Gaiman’s narration makes it feel as if the story is auto-biographical. That adds a certain frisson for a fan like me. I look forward to reading it again, on paper and as an audiobook.