An Ocean at the End of the Lane: Should You Read or Listen?

My weekly post to help you decide the best format to enjoy a book.  Without further ado:

Should you read or listen to An Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman?

The Afthead Summary:

When I went to see my BFF Neil Gaiman speak a few months ago, he told the story about how An Ocean at the End of the Lane came into being.  it was an accident.  It wasn’t supposed to be a novel, but the story just kept going, and when it was done he called his publisher to tell him/her that he’d accidentally written a novel.  I am in awe.

I have to admit when I first read this book, I didn’t really dig it.   It’s the story of a man who has returned to the home of his youth and finds the memories of a magical and horrible event in his childhood.  It is Neil Gaiman through and through: succinctly told with beautiful imagery, a dark story, unexpected twists and turns, but I didn’t initially love it.


I read the novel first and it didn’t capture me.  The main character kind of reminded me of the boy in Stardust, without the bravery or the adventure behind him.  His sister is nasty, his mom is present but absent, his dad is just evil, and the family is on the brink of disaster.  Their finances are a mess and they have to let out a bedroom in their house to make ends meet which is where the problems begin.  The sister’s nastiness pales in comparison to the housekeeper they hire and life goes beyond downhill from there.  The character between utter disaster and the protagonist is an eleven year old girl.  It’s a dark book from start to end.


Normally when I’m as ambivalent about a book as this one I don’t bother to get the audiobook, but Neil Gaiman reads it and I really love listening to him.  In an ideal world I would have him following me around day and night narrating my live in his soft fluid voice.  “Johanna wakes up late, again.  She burrows her head into her cat trying to drown out the hypnotic voice of Neil Gaiman, but alas he can not be snoozed.”  I could deal with tragedy, bad news, and anger so much more effectively if it were delivered by Mr. Gaiman.  But I digress….

There is a scene where the boy pulls a worm out of his foot, and I almost had to stop my car and hug myself to alleviate the full body heebie jeebies.  The whole book was like that in the best way possible.  I sat in my parking garage at work for an awkward amount of time each morning, just trying to get to place where I could stop listening.  The evil people were so evil.  The boy was so much less blah and so much more innocent  and afraid when read through Gaiman’s interpretation.  The ending was so poignant and heart wrenching.  I loved it.



I really love Gaiman’s audiobooks.  If you get a chance, and the idea of this one doesn’t excite you, try M is for Magic, Stardust and American Gods (not read by Gaiman.)

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