The Ocean at the End of the Lane - contemporary fantasy
Neil Gaiman has made a name for himself as a contemporary fantasy author, but unfortunately for me that is a genre that rarely grabs my attention. It seems like it should be right up my alley but very few of my forays into this realm result in an engaging experience. Because this book is a stand alone novel, and also pretty short in length, it seemed like a decent way for me to dip my toe in the water and experience Neil Gaiman with little commitment. Was it worth it?
This is a story about a middle aged man who returns to his childhood home and explores his memory of a girl named Lettie Hemstock, whom he first encountered when he was 7 years old. Forty years ago a suicide occurred in a stolen car that was found at the end of the lane where this man lived as a little boy and he was overwhelmed by the darkness that was unleashed around him by this event. Luckily for him he was also exposed to the Hemstock family that lived on the farm at the end of the lane and he met the remarkable girl named Lettie, who promised to protect him from the darkness. Wise beyond her years, and comfortable in the realm of the magical, Lettie became his friend and protector during those dark times, and now upon his return, he finds himself drawn back to the location where he last encountered her. This short story is best described as a modern day fairy tale that uses the fantastic to explore what it really means to be human. Not really my thing but it held my attention anyway so I am glad I gave it a chance.
For the audiobook version Neil Gaiman does his own narration and his passion for the story and the characters really comes through in his performance. An author doing their own narration is usually a warning sign for me when it comes to listening to an audiobook, but in this case it worked out just fine. While Gaiman might not be the best narrator I have ever heard, he makes up for it with a flair for telling a story and it is obvious that the characters are his own. Ultimately I think it felt right to experience Neil's work through his own reading of it so he could guarantee it was delivered the way that he intended it to be. It is also intrigued me enough to consider picking up some of his other works.