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The Ocean at the End of the Lane
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Archive 08-19 GR Discussions > The Ocean at the End of the Lane: our May 2014 Group Read

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message 1: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
Starting this thread for Irene who will be our leader for the May discussion of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

Who is planning on joining us for this discussion?

Happy reading ladies!


Tiffany PSquared (tiffanypsquared) | 28 comments I will join the discussion. I am interested to read everyone's thoughts about this one. :)


Jennifer W | 2175 comments I'll join! It might take me a few more days or so to finish, though.


Colleen This was a great book. Looking forward to the discussion!


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments It is a fast read. Enjoy!


message 6: by Nat (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nat | 11 comments I just finished it few weeks ago, so I'll join in. I'm interested in what others think about it :)


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments The author, Gaiman, is pretty clever. How does he prepare us for this genre? How accepting were you, as you read the novel, to expect the unexpected?


Stacie | 32 comments Having read almost everything Gaiman has written, I always expect the unexpected. It's one reason I love his books and get so disappointed in boring, predictable stories.


Tina | 116 comments I have to agree with Stacie, I've read nearly everything he has written and what I love best about Neil (yes, I call him Neil LOL) is that I love his "other worldliness" I never expect a little girl to just a normal little girl. Even with his children's books (I strongly recommoned "Fortunately the Milk to everyone) there is a bit of the fantastic to his storytelling. Its why I adore him so very much.


message 10: by Irene Del (last edited May 04, 2014 09:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments This is the first book I read written by him. I like the style in this book. There is a little humor in the way he is building upto the fantastic elements. Like when he states that children are explorers but adults follow the same patterns. That is something to think about. I do see people including myself following the same patterns.


message 11: by Irene Del (last edited May 04, 2014 09:52AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Where there any parts of the novel that triggered childhood memories that you dismissed as an adult because it was just that faded memories that didn't have logic?


message 12: by Tina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tina | 116 comments The farm triggers some stuff for me. About my time at my grandparents house. I spent quite a few summers with them when I was young (it was the best time EVER) and some things that I swear I was dreaming, but at the time didn't feel that way.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments I may be wrong, but I can't find the name of the narrator.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments So the idea of the story is that this world is an illusion. The main character has a great imagination which he confirms and refers back to books he has read to use as life lessons while he is in sticky situations. Or do you think that was his imagination running away with him?


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Tina wrote: "The farm triggers some stuff for me. About my time at my grandparents house. I spent quite a few summers with them when I was young (it was the best time EVER) and some things that I swear I was ..."
That is interesting. You should write some down. You never know if it develops to a novel.


message 16: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
I really have enjoyed the few Neil Gaiman books I have read because there is always something "unexpected" in them. Plus, the author really has a way with words!

I loved how this book was just going along as a story, and then all of a sudden, out of the blue, just in the next sentence, something really strange is going on (when he got to the farm after the car was found with the dead guy in in). Suddenly it is like "What the heck!?"

Irene, interesting comment about the narrator. You know, I don't think his name was ever mentioned either. Interesting. He was just telling his story, but he is never named.

For me this story didn't end up being about an illusion. I don't think it was just the narrator's imagination, as the farm and the woman were still there when he returned as an adult, and he has apparently been back several times before. For me it ended up having a religious meaning to it. Did anyone else get anything like that from the story?


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Sheila wrote: "I really have enjoyed the few Neil Gaiman books I have read because there is always something "unexpected" in them. Plus, the author really has a way with words!

I agree Sheila. The novel is full of spontaneous actions. It makes it hard to put the book down. There were many times when I had to reread the previous pages to figure out how the new issue came about.

A religious meaning? Yes, three persons. Letti, the child sacrifices her self for the narrator with no name so he could live. She will return one day. I didn't see it.
Good call.



Tiffany PSquared (tiffanypsquared) | 28 comments This book took me back to spending summers with my grandparents in Asheville, NC. So much of the most magical times in my life happened there. Several times, while reading this book, I put the scenes in and around our house there.
What I took from the book - even from the beginning when the fantasy just dropped in from nowhere - is that THAT is the nature if childhood. At times reality and imagination just mix all together and that's what makes youth magical.
Then we spend our whole adult lives trying to get back to that state of being.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Tiffany wrote: "This book took me back to spending summers with my grandparents in Asheville, NC. So much of the most magical times in my life happened there. Several times, while reading this book, I put the scen..."

That's a great memory you have. I think you are right about the nature of children to see magical moments in everything.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Did any one have any favorite quotes or sayings?


message 21: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
Irene wrote: A religious meaning? Yes, three persons. Letti, the child sacrifices her self for the narrator with no name so he could live. She will return one day. I didn't see it. Good call.."

Yes, that is what I picked up too. Also, in the Acknowledgements section at the very back of the book, Neil Gaiman ends with the sentence, "And lastly, my thanks to the Hempstock family, who, in one form or another, have always been there when I needed them."

That sentence confirmed for me that the three Hempstocks might in a way be representing the Christian trinity.


Jennifer W | 2175 comments I finished it this afternoon. Despite being a short book, with plenty left to the imagination, I found myself sucked in to the world. So much so it was probably a bad idea for me to drive my car afterward!

Sheila, I got the Holy Trinity, too. I came to it at the end of the story when the narrator comments something to the effect of "I thought you were different people, but you've always just been 1".


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Jennifer W wrote: "I finished it this afternoon. Despite being a short book, with plenty left to the imagination, I found myself sucked in to the world. So much so it was probably a bad idea for me to drive my car af..."

That was funny about not driving after reading this book. LOL. I feel I missed experiencing a vivid imagination the narrator had, in my childhood.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments What do you think the pond and ocean represented?


Jennifer W | 2175 comments Irene wrote: "Jennifer W wrote: "I finished it this afternoon. Despite being a short book, with plenty left to the imagination, I found myself sucked in to the world. So much so it was probably a bad idea for me..."

I managed to drive safely. :) I just wasn't paying as much attention to the road as might be advisable!

My favorite quote was the one about Narnia: "why didn't adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?" Why indeed.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Jennifer W wrote: "Irene wrote: "Jennifer W wrote: "I finished it this afternoon. Despite being a short book, with plenty left to the imagination, I found myself sucked in to the world. So much so it was probably a b..."

I don't know. Maybe because we are taught to grow up and be realistic. I loved Harry Potter books. I agree with the narrator, we need to read more books like that.


Jennifer W | 2175 comments I didn't read any of the Narnia books until I was an adult!

I think it's a bit tongue in cheek from Gaiman. He writes adult books, but he also writes books for young adults and kids. Actually, he may have written fan fiction based on Narnia, if I remember correctly.


message 28: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
I didn't read any of the Narnia books until I was an adult either!

Some of the quotes I liked:

“Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.”

“Peas baffled me. I could not understand why grown-ups would take things that tasted so good raw, and then put them in tins, and make them revolting.”


message 29: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "What do you think the pond and ocean represented?"

For me it represented heaven, or the divine presence. The "beyond". It was where the Hempstocks were from, across the ocean.


Jennifer W | 2175 comments I agree, Sheila, but I also think it represents that things are not what they appear. It can be wholly contained in a bucket, or transformed to be a true ocean. It also made me think of baptisms. No one goes into the water but to be healed.


Tiffany PSquared (tiffanypsquared) | 28 comments I love how he painted the picture of the "ocean" as both an adult and then again as he's remembering the events as a child. We see it as he sees it. As a man, he recognizes the water as a pond. But during the climax of events in the story, we imagine it as an ocean as well.
It's always the mark of a great author who can make us discard what we "know" and readily accept things that don't follow normal rules.


message 32: by Tina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tina | 116 comments Irene wrote: "Did any one have any favorite quotes or sayings?"

My two favorites are:

"Books were safer than other people anyway".

and

"I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else."

I adore these quotes not only because I'm an avid reader, but when I was younger, I read constantly to escape some not so nice reality situations.


message 33: by Tina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tina | 116 comments For me the Hempstocks represent the Power of 3. Some say Holy Trinity, I say the Divine. All the same way to describe the same thing.

The ocean to me represents life and re-birth. Lettie went to the Ocean to save the narrator and I knew she'd be back again one day.

I related to so much of the storytelling in this book of Neil's. I relate to many of his books, but this one in particular hit upon very personal things for me.


message 34: by Irene Del (last edited May 07, 2014 06:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments There were many references to healing when they talked about the pond or ocean water. Why did Lettie refer to it as an ocean?


message 35: by Irene Del (last edited May 08, 2014 05:23AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Did you find any paradoxes?


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Tina wrote: "Irene wrote: "Did any one have any favorite quotes or sayings?"

My two favorites are:

"Books were safer than other people anyway".

and

"I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else."

I a..."


I read many quotes I liked, but like you, these are my favorites because it is what I do now.


message 37: by Tina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tina | 116 comments I think, that because Lettie was representative (IMO) of the Maid, she's a child and when you are a kid EVERYTHING is bigger. To Lettie her pond was a world open to her, a vast place where she knew she would have to go to one day.

Take a moment and think back to when you were little, how HUGE something looked to you. My example, when I was little when I would visit my maternal grandparents, I thought that the dogwood tree out front was the greatest hiding spot. For a child, who is not older than 5 or 6, it is. As I got older I realized that it really was a tiny tree, but when I was little, the adventures I would having under that tree. I would take my dolls out there. My grandfather loved me so much (I was the only girl and his first grand kid) he was always playing with me. He ALWAYS knew I was under that tree when he would play hide and seek with me, but he always pretended he couldn't see me.

It's about perspective. What one chooses to see and chooses not to see.

At least that's my take on it.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Thanks to everyone for joining in. All your comments are interesting and thought provoking.
So Gaiman purposely never gives us the name of the protagonist. Why? What was he trying to get us to conjure up?


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Ursela Monkton, what can you say about this thing? Or woman? I think old Mrs. Hempstock said she was a flea. What do you say she was? Is she really gone?


Jennifer W | 2175 comments Interesting questions.

I always assume that if a character is not named then the author is trying to get us in their place, but that may be an erroneous assumption. When we read The Gargoyle, the author joined us in the group read and told us that the main character never "told" the author his name, so he left the character nameless. I can't imagine writing a story with an unnamed main character, it feels unnatural.

I think the woman was a demon of sorts. She came from the creature that Lettie first tries to bind, right? So where did that thing come from? I don't know if she's really gone; I don't know where she came from, I don't know what she was, and I don't know where she would go. A pretty odd choice for a villain, I think. Effective, as she was scary and mean, but kind of hard to wrap my head around.


message 41: by Tina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tina | 116 comments Ursela isn't gone, she's just off somewhere waiting for her next chance for someone to stumble upon her and let her out. At least that's how I think of her.

As for the narrator, for me, it's always hard when I read one of Neil's books, because I always think of him. Unless he specifically gives a name.

Reading interviews with him regarding this book, I think of him as a child. He said he was inspired by real places and an incident that actually happened in his young life.

As I've said, I'm a HUGE fan of his.


message 42: by Irene Del (last edited May 10, 2014 05:02AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments I think writing a book and managing not to name the protagonist is a skill. I didn't even notice he had no name until I started preparing for the discussion and I couldn't find it. :) The whole story is from only his point of view. So I thought we were the protagonist, but looking back we aren't we are listening to his story. Towards the end, what emotions did you experience?


Tiffany PSquared (tiffanypsquared) | 28 comments Towards the end of the book, I felt sad at the "loss" of Lettie. I understood the sacrifice, but it stung nonetheless. I related the protagonist's experience of revisiting the Hempstocks to so many of my own life moments - trying to rediscover the magic and mystery of youth. Sometimes you do.


message 44: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
I also think the woman is/was some sort of demon. Evil incarnate.

As to the main character not being named, who knows with this author. Like Jennifer, when I have an unnamed character I tend to think the author is making the character represent the reader. But Neil Gaiman kept this character unnamed so effortlessly. Maybe he was just trying to put us in the character's head?


message 45: by Irene Del (last edited May 10, 2014 11:08AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments http://www.neilgaiman.com this is a website on Gaiman.It has a blog he writes. This gave me a peek in to his writing style.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Tiffany wrote: "Towards the end of the book, I felt sad at the "loss" of Lettie. I understood the sacrifice, but it stung nonetheless. I related the protagonist's experience of revisiting the Hempstocks to so man..."

Reading this book, it brought me back to my youth also looking for moments I might have considered magical. I agree the emotion of sadness and lost the end of the story triggers.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments Sheila wrote: "I also think the woman is/was some sort of demon. Evil incarnate.

As to the main character not being named, who knows with this author. Like Jennifer, when I have an unnamed character I tend to t..."


Ursula is evil, but does she know she is? Why do you think she is evil?
What do you think the other characters think about her?


Jennifer W | 2175 comments She seems to know she's evil when she's threatening to lock the kid up in the attic. I don't think she gets why she should leave, she says she wants to make people happy. I think she wants to rule the world. If people just give in to what she wants, she won't harm them, she'll just be the world dictator. She may not care what effect this has on the world, so long as it's hers. The demon birds didn't seem to care if they destroyed the world, either.


Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments I'm following Neil Gaiman in Twitter.
It's @Neilhimself. I just became a fan.


message 50: by Irene Del (last edited May 10, 2014 07:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Irene Del (irene918) | 1016 comments At the beginning of the story, the narrator describes the Hempstocks as" unlikely people" Why would he remember them that way? Were they unlikely people? I looked up that word and it means; unpromising & likely to fail. Why do you think he would remember them that way?


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