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Group reads > The Ocean at the End of the Lane (spoilers)

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message 1: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I guess I've read seven novels by Gaiman - of those this is one of the best. I loved the magic and the relationships - everything seemed real to me.

Let the discussion begin.

message 2: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I've noticed that a character dynamic I really relate to - or is it a relationship dynamic? - is that of a young boy and an older or elderly lady - A Christmas Memory, The Witches and The Children of Green Knowe, are three favorites - oh, The Grass Harp too. This book seems like it was designed for me. In the first chapter the boy is given a boxed set of the Narnia books and loves Gilbert & Sullivan's Iolanthe - those two things struck home for me. I love it when a narrative seems to be speaking directly to you - THAT is magic.

message 3: by Jayme (new)

Jayme I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane last November and was surprised how sad and nostalgic the story was as our man literally walks down memory lane. I remember wondering "What is really real from our childhoods? What we remembered or how we remember it?

I've only read 3 Gaiman books -The Ocean at the End of the Lane, American Gods, and The Graveyard Book. My favorite was The Graveyard Book I think because it was the first one that I read.

message 4: by Ivan (last edited Aug 03, 2014 06:15AM) (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
There is no getting around the fact that The Graveyard Book is a superior work of art. I loved that novel.

I am currently working on a novel for children that is autobiographical. I am dredging up so many memories. However, I have had to stop more than once and ask myself if what I remember is truly the way it was or just how I wish it had been. Still, it's been an illuminating experience - and one that is far from over (I don't know that anything will come from my efforts).

message 5: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 85 comments I read it last year. I am on the fence about Gaiman - I think he works well as a graphic novelist and also I really enjoyed some of his YA stuff however I didnt fully connect with this although I read it to the end whereas I abandoned American Gods 10% or so in as I just wasnt enjoying it as much as some of the other books on my to read pile.

I think the problem I have with him is that I just do not enjoy his prose at a sentence level. It is a bit like store bought sliced white bread to me - it is serviceable enough and accessible but bland.

message 6: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (lifeasabooknerd) | 6 comments I read this book as soon as it was released and I could get my hands on it. I love that, for me, Gaiman's books always feel so accessible, like a friend that just gets you and you enjoy talking on the same wavelength. This book affected me more than any of the others of his that I've read and I was blown away. Such a beautiful story. But I feel like his true gift is always in the way he tells his stories. Previously in my life, I have read American Gods (American Gods, #1) by Neil Gaiman Coraline by Neil Gaiman The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman Instructions by Neil Gaiman The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman

message 7: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (lifeasabooknerd) | 6 comments Can you tell I have kids??? ;)

message 8: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
No. :-) I read all these books recently and I have no kids - though I have lots of nieces and nephews (22 with another on the way) and have given some of these titles to them. I think great writing transcends genre.

message 9: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 568 comments I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane last year. Before that the Gaiman I'd read was American Gods and before that a short story, The Monarch of the Glen, which features the main character of American Gods. I probably would have liked American Gods better had it been shorter. I enjoyed Ocean much more, though I don't now remember a lot of the detail of it. Gaiman is a popular author with many devotees, but I'm not in his camp yet.

message 10: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (lifeasabooknerd) | 6 comments I agree Ivan. Great writing is great writing and as an adult who reads with my kids, I get a lot out of rereading some books to them that I didn't grasp hold of in my youth. I've yet to read any of his graphic novels (not super well-read in that genre) but I have Fragile Things and Neverwhere on my bookshelf. I am going to find a way to work them in to the new challenge I'm designing for my group Dark Fiction. Selfish?? A little, but hey, spoils go to the victorious. ;)

message 11: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments Ben wrote: "I read it last year. I am on the fence about Gaiman - I think he works well as a graphic novelist and also I really enjoyed some of his YA stuff however I didnt fully connect with this although I ..."

I can see where you're coming from. It took me a bit to enjoy his writing. He sticks to simple language. I've decided he does it well. I prefer a more sophisticated writing style - even in children's literature.

message 12: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I find his style very immediate and engaging. Perhaps that simplicity is why I like him. Although, I don't think he lacks sophistication. All these adjectives are rather subjective. What is it about this or that author that I like or don't like; it's hard to articulate without sounding too negative or too praising. Edith Wharton's novels were more sophisticated than Willa Cather's - but I liked Cather more.

message 13: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 568 comments I have no complaints about the style of Gaiman's writing. I expect that I will read more of his books. I didn't particularly enjoy American Gods, the book that is touted as his masterpiece, but neither did I dislike it. I did like The Ocean at the End of the Lane better, but I didn't find it remarkable. It wasn't the sort of book that put Gaiman on the map for me, but I thought it was pretty good. Unfortunately, it isn't fresh enough in my mind to recall the details for discussion.

Sometimes we come across an author that makes us want to read more. For me, Gaiman isn't one of those. The genre in which he writes is akin to Stephen King, to at least some degree, I think. While I don't think of myself as a Stephen King fan, I'm probably more disposed to read something by King than by Gaiman, just on the basis of authorship.

message 14: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments Thinking about this. Sophisticated may not be the right word. Challenging maybe?. Writers who, as in poetry, make me stop to decifer the meaning of a word or phrase. Or who make you consider the context in which a word/phrase is used.

It seems in this book that Gaiman's strength is the telling of an "imaginative" story. As in, what if....such good/evil beings manifested themselves?

message 15: by Londa (last edited Aug 05, 2014 05:40PM) (new)

Londa (londalocs) I read this book last year soon after it was published. I enjoyed it and the ideas he presented, but it wasn't my favorite from him.

The first Gaiman book I read was Neverwhere (still my fave) which I absolutely loved. I have since read The Graveyard Book, Coraline, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I still have quite a few of his books to explore. What made me a big fan right from the start was his ability to create wonderful villains. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar were my favorite characters in Neverwhere and they were truly evil. The Other Mother in Coraline, Jack (graveyard book), and the 'villain' in The Ocean are all just perfectly written.

message 16: by Ivan (last edited Aug 05, 2014 06:19PM) (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
It's funny how different writers appeal to different people. Stephen King - I've tried to read a few different books without success. I read The Mist and The Green Mile - shorter works (hello = Novella Club?) - but 'Salem's Lot - I read 50 or 60 pages and nothing had happened yet. Charles Dickens - I love the stories, the meat and potatoes - but the protracted presentation drives me to distraction - literally, I can't stay focused because of the superfluity.

I "was" the boy in this story. I loved him. I identified with him. The worm was truly wicked. I wanted to move in with the three ladies. Their world was special and unique. Just being in their home you were safe in a bygone era. I felt safe with them.

Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar were really wonderfully horribly evil in Neverwhere - which was my first Gaiman as well Londa.

As for our discussion - some words have many meanings and sometimes the reader interprets a word or comment other than it was intended. In speech we hear the speakers inflections and better understand the spirit in which things are said - the written word sometimes lacks the same clarity. BUT every opinion is welcome here. I would hope our group won't become one of those where we agree about every book and author. If you like something - tell us what and why; likewise, if you don't like it. Differing opinions give food for thought and expand our minds and experiences.

message 17: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments Oh yes! I would love to be taken in by this house of nurturing, wise and mystifying women. I love their food.

message 18: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments I just read the chapter with him in the fairy circle. Loved it - how a 7-year-old boy recites poetry/songs and then admits he doesn't understand it all but likes the way it sounds. I can relate to that.

More and more there seem to be metaphors of life in this book. Good/evil. Nature/nurture. etc.

message 19: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments Finished. It grew on me and I ended up liking it more than I initially thought I would.

Too often, I approach books lauded by various award organizations with a grain of caution. Rather, I think books should be approached with wild abandon. Once I let myself do that I enjoyed it more.

I'd like to thank Ivan for suggesting this book. I have meant to read Gaiman for some time, but haven't.

message 20: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 85 comments My feelings with Gaimans writing are very much a matter of taste. I understand and I think I can see what others like in his writing style - it just does not appeal to me so much.

The only area where I get a bit negative about Gaiman is not his fault at all. It is just his fantasy is far, far better known and read than many other writers who I feel write more interestingly and affectingly. Take for instance Caitlin Kiernan's The Drowning Girl - on some level there are similarities in that both are dark fantasies with paranormal elements, both are very personal stories, both first person narration but outwith small sections of the horror/fantasy genre very few mainstream readers are talking about Kiernan's work though if they tried it they might well love it as it is a book filled with cross over appeal. There are lots of other examples I could list.

Ocean taken on its own merits is a creepy, haunting novel(la) and whilst I did not see anything here that was wildly original I can totally see how people connected with the book. It is many people's favorite Gaiman and whilst it has one or two rough edges I do think that is part of its charm.

message 21: by Julia (last edited Aug 07, 2014 03:59AM) (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) My love of Neil Gaiman is tied to my feelings for Ray Bradbury, who was greatly admired by Gaiman. One of the most poignant short works by Gaiman is his tribute to Bradbury: The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury, which you can read online here:

Neither of them are Faulkners or Shakespeares--but they both, for me, are able to capture childhood in a way no other writer has. I'm 74 years old and still get chllls when I re-read Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Gaiman gave his short work to Bradbury just before Ray died, and he loved it. That short piece is published in the book Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury. Upon Bradbury's death, The Guardian asked Neil to comment: He concludes the article by saying:

"I met him first when I was a young writer and he was in the UK for his 70th birthday celebrations, held at the Natural History Museum. We became friends in an odd, upside-down way, sitting beside each other at book-signings, at events. I would be there when Ray spoke in public over the years. Sometimes I'd introduce him to the audience. I was the master of ceremonies when Ray was given his grand master award, by the Science Fiction Writers of America: he told them about a child he had watched, teased by his friends for wanting to enter a toy shop because they said it was too young for him, and how much Ray had wanted to persuade the child to ignore his friends and play with the toys....
He was kind, and gentle, with that midwestern niceness that's a positive thing rather than an absence of character. He was enthusiastic, and it seemed that that enthusiasm would keep him going forever. He genuinely liked people. He left the world a better place, and left better places in it: the red sands and canals of Mars, the midwestern Halloweens and small towns and dark carnivals. And he kept writing.

"Looking back over a lifetime, you see that love was the answer to everything," Ray said once, in an interview.

He gave people so many reasons to love him. And we did."

And in his blog for June 6, 2012, Gaiman says: "Apologies for the roughness. It's been a rough day. I cried once when I called Harlan Ellison to make sure he knew, a second time when my editor Jennifer Brehl, who was also Ray's editor and friend, said "You know, he really loved you." And each time the tears took me by surprise."

American Gods is one of my 5 star books; my review is here: This monologue by Sam is one of the best things I've read:

“I can believe that things are true and I can believe things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen – I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of casual chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.” Samantha Black Crow

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is not my favorite of Gaiman's works--for me, that's reserved for his Sandman graphic novels and American Gods. However, the never-named fiftyish narrator joins Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway as three of my favorite characters.

We all have authors who touch our hearts as much as (or more than) our minds. That's where Gaiman and Bradbury have a special place for me--in my heart.

message 22: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Wow Julia that was a powerful post.

I recently read a piece Gaiman wrote in response to the death of his friend, the writer Diana Wynne Jones (author of “Charmed Life” and “Howl’s Moving Castle”). His appreciations thoroughly communicate the depth of feeling and the gratitude he felt for these mentors and friends. I was moved just reading them.

I read “Something Wicked This Way Comes” a few decades ago. I loved that book; it gave me the hee bee gee bees. “Fahrenheit 451” is one of the books that shaped this young man’s life – along with “Animal Farm,” “Lord of the Flies,” “Slaughterhouse 5” and “Of Mice and Men.” I never did read “The Martian Chronicles” or “The Illustrated Man” – so many books, so little time.

Those authors who have touched my heart most profoundly are Truman Capote and Edna St Vincent Millay. I have a visceral reaction when I read them. I realize that sounds pretentious or affected, but it is true for me. I discovered Capote when I was quite young and the words he used to articulate observations and feelings I felt were uniquely mine pierced my soul. I’ve read the majority of his work twice and a few works three and four times – “A Christmas Memory” more times than I can count. That work, and a few others (“84, Charing Cross Road,” “Tales of the City,” “Stuart Little”), represents the literary “we of me.” As for Millay I only have to read “I know I am but summer to your heart, and not the full four seasons of the year” or “Thou art not lovelier than lilacs” to stir the emotions.

Ben: I think we all could provide a list of unsung author heroes.

message 23: by Jayme (new)

Jayme Julia wrote: "My love of Neil Gaiman is tied to my feelings for Ray Bradbury, who was greatly admired by Gaiman. One of the most poignant short works by Gaiman is his tribute to Br..."

Thank you for sharing the insight of the relationship between Bradbury and Gaiman

message 24: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments Yes, thank you Julia. I can definitely see Bradbury's influence on Gaiman's writing.

message 25: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments Ben wrote: "My feelings with Gaimans writing are very much a matter of taste. I understand and I think I can see what others like in his writing style - it just does not appeal to me so much.

The only area..."

She looks really interesting and discussable. Found one novella,The Dry Salvagesbut don't know if this would be a good place to start with her.

message 26: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Suwak | 25 comments Spoilers

So, in general, I really liked the book, but two things really bothered me. For one, why in the hell did Lettie take the little, defenseless boy on her mission in the first place. She apologizes for it later...but if she's eons old, why would she make such a stupid mistake?

Second, how is the narrator telling this story in past tense if his memory is being erased by the end of the book. How coule he possibly remember the story to tell it in the first place?

It was an interesting read, because I enjoyed it a lot as I read it...but now that I'm done, it's kind of being dimished in my memory. It's one of those books that works as long as you don't think too much about it, which is fine, but I enjoy thinking about the books I read, so in hindsight, the work is quickly losing its charm.

Still, I'd definitely say it's worth the read, especially if you're one of those people who can turn off their thinking brain and just go along for the ride.

message 27: by Mmars (new)

Mmars | 588 comments I guess I just went with the story and didn't question stuff. I saw Lettie as an 11-yr-old happy to have companionship. I also figured she'd stay 11 forever. Also it was like a children's book fantasy where kids just go off on adventures and survive all kinds of stuff. I think that speaks to something deep inside all of us as we journey through life.

message 28: by Ivan (last edited Aug 09, 2014 04:42AM) (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
It's all right there in the prologue:

"If you asked me an hour before, I would have said no, I did not remember the way. I do not even think I would have remembered Lettie Hempstock's name. But standing in that hallway, it was all coming back to me. Memories were waiting at the edges of things, beckoning to me. Had you told me that I was seven again, I might have half believed you, for a moment."

and the final sentence of the prologue:

"I remembered that, and, remembering that, I remembered everything."

I'm not going to re-read the entire book to illustrate a point. However, I do believe it was made clear that he only remembers these people and events when he is literally there. He even has to be told that he's been back for visits previously.

Now, why Lettie took him with her - well, she shouldn't have. It was a mistake. However, it's a mistake that makes the rest of the story possible. And people make mistakes in real life all the time - seemingly intelligent people.

message 29: by Julia (last edited Aug 09, 2014 05:22AM) (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) Great post, Ivan--love that last sentence: "And people make mistakes in real life all the time - seemingly intelligent people." So true.

I enjoyed Gaiman's own observations about the book:

Erin Morgenstern, the author of The Night Circus, conducted a two-part interview with Gaiman at his second New York stop during what is allegedly his final book signing tour.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Gaiman’s latest book, his first for adults in nearly a decade, and the first novel he has written that mines his autobiography for material. It is set, more or less, on the lane where Gaiman spent his childhood, and deals with a fictional family, the Hempstocks, who first took up residence in Gaiman’s imagination when he was nine years old. They showed up soon after he found out that the farm at the end of his lane was mentioned in the Domesday Book. The farm had to have people living in it, the boy reasoned, so he thought up many generations of Hempstocks. Years later, various members made appearances in his work—Daisy Hempstock turned up in Stardust, and Liza Hempstock in The Graveyard Book. In Ocean, it is Lettie Hempstock who befriends the narrator and tries to protect him when a dark form of magic is unleashed in his village.

Gaiman said the process on this book was very different for him—where normally his work is more planned, this was something else:

“I started writing it for Amanda [musician Amanda Palmer, who has been married to Gaiman since 2011] because I missed her, but then it kept growing. I told my publishers there was a novella on the way, but then I did a word count at the end, and realized I just wrote a novel by accident! [...] It wasn’t plotted. Things kept taking me by surprise. It’s not making things up, it’s getting into what did actually happen. E.L. Doctorow said writing a novel’s like driving from New York to Los Angeles in the dark, and only seeing as far as your headlights. This book was driving. In a thick fog. At night.” [Gaiman shook his head.] “With one headlight out.”....

“While I was writing, it was like I was there. There’s a scene where our hero has to climb down a drainpipe to escape, and I was talking to my sister, and she said, ‘you know, we’ve got a photo of you on that drainpipe…’ And that’s the back cover of the book now!”

So this book is really for his wife--and I feel very lucky that he chose to share it with all of us. His description of the book being written in the fog with one headlight is delightful--just have to let go, become a child again, and join in the darkly magical ride!

message 30: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I adore that picture - it is so evocative - and the perfect choice for the back cover.

message 31: by Ivan (last edited Aug 09, 2014 07:13AM) (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
In the first chapter our hero turns seven years old and is given a boxed set of Narnia and a recording of Gilbert & Sullivan's fairy operetta "Iolanthe." I loved that. However, seven seems so young for those gifts. I was taken to musical films - Disney and others - and adored "Oliver!" plus the cartoon "Gay-Puree," and "The Wizard of Oz" - but I don't think I read anything as substantial as the Narnia books for a few years. "Stuart Little" was my favorite, and the Beatrix Potter books. I think I was ten or eleven when I read "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

When did you start "really" reading? (and what).

message 32: by A.M. (new)

A.M. Oldroyd | 19 comments I just finished reading this book, over a couple of days on vacation in Cornwall UK, where I used to go holiday as a boy (which seemed somehow appropriate!). It's the first Neil Gaiman book I've ever read and I have to say I hugely enjoyed it. It reminded me of the books I used to read as a child. For some reason I stopped reading fantasy as an adult (not sure why?) but when I was young I devoured the works of Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, Terry Brooks & the like. (These are among my earliest serious memories of reading - although I was reading The Famous Five & Secret Seven prior to this I guess) I have to say I'm a huge fan of simple prose. I think it's hard to do well & I'd say Gaiman certainly has the knack for it. The narrative did feel a little bit like a short story that had been stretched out into a novel, probably because Gaiman was enjoying writing it so much, but then I was also enjoying reading it very much, so I didn't really mind. Like Ivan I'd also say there was much about it that reminded me of my own childhood, growing up in the south west of the UK. For me it's another great novel I would probably not have discovered without the group. So thanks everyone!

message 33: by A.M. (new)

A.M. Oldroyd | 19 comments Ivan, I think the first time I felt like a serious reader was when I was allowed to take a copy of Jules Verne's 'From The Earth To The Moon' home from the school library at around age nine. I'm not sure I understood much of it, but I was hooked on Verne after that. My childhood reading was dominated by fantasy & science fiction. I'd say the books I remember most from my early childhood are 'The Hobbit' & 'Lord of the Rings', 'Day of the Triffids', War Of The Worlds' and not forgetting 'The Adventures of Tintin'. Odd that I've continued to read science fiction, but I've stopped reading fantasy. What does that say about me I wonder?

message 34: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
I don't know how it is in the UK or other countries, but in the US the perception is that fantasy is for children and young adults - like a phase you're supposed to grow out of. Adults who read science-fiction-horror-fantasy are thought of as "nerds" or in a state of arrested development. Why? I can't say. I think most of the folks who think this way are closed minded narrow thinking fools usually obsessed with the acquisition of money, property and material possessions - as those are the goals of grown-ups and how you are supposed to measure success. I find that most grown-ups who enjoy these genres are free spirits, young at heart types - usually more spiritual than religious and non-judgmental. I judge success by contentment and happiness. I've known a lot of people who didn't have two nickels to rub together but were deliriously happy.

message 35: by Julia (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) Hmm--I've found wonderful adults who love fantasy and scyfy and are proud of it :-) We just passed our library millage, and our librarian, the president of the Friends of the Library, and I had a great riff on Dr. Who, Tolkien, Battlestar Gallactica, Firefly+Serenity, Harry Potter--the list goes on and on.

Imagination and curiosity are the key, whether for children or adults--hence my love for The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I do think films have helped promote a new respect for fantasy/scyfy--all of us oldsters are excited to see GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY :-)

I totally agree with you, Ivan: "I find that most grown-ups who enjoy these genres are free spirits, young at heart types - usually more spiritual than religious and non-judgmental." And what a joy at 74 to know that my grandchildren share that same love of imagination and curiosity!

message 36: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was great! DOCTOR WHO returns August 25th!!!

message 37: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (lifeasabooknerd) | 6 comments I was totally blown away by GOTG. It was awesome!!! I didn't grow up reading much sci-if/fantasy, but seem to be reading more of it now. I think some people think it's all space and aliens and there seems to be much more to the genre than just those things.

message 38: by A.M. (new)

A.M. Oldroyd | 19 comments I think more and more adults are reading fantasy literature in the UK now thanks to the popularity of 'Game of Thrones' & The Hobbit films. I'd say fantasy is very much mainstream here now, and 'geek chic' (awful phrase!) is all the rage thanks to actors like Simon Pegg. I think personally I stopped reading fantasy in my early twenties because I grew tired of the same old quest based narrative. It all got a bit repetitive. I continued to read sci-fi as there seemed to be more styles & variation to sample, but I'm sure there are all kinds of different approaches within the fantasy genre as well & I'm certainly excited by Gaiman & the other books / authors that have been recommended in this thread.

message 39: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
When I "really" started reading it was Steinbeck, Hemingway, Capote, Thornton Wilder, Richard Wright, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, McCullers, O'Conner - I cut a large swath through American lit and then started in with E. M. Forster, Isherwood and a great chunk of LGBT lit and history. I haven't read much sci-fi or horror - a few here and there. Now I'm on a trek through children's literature which seems dominated by fantasy.

message 40: by Jeff (last edited Aug 09, 2014 03:17PM) (new)

Jeff Suwak | 25 comments Ivan wrote: "It's all right there in the prologue:

"If you asked me an hour before, I would have said no, I did not remember the way. I do not even think I would have remembered Lettie Hempstock's name. But..."

edit: I realized after I wrote the rest of this post that you made my point for me, Ivan. You wrote "I'm not going to re-read the entire book to illustrate a point. However, I do believe it was made clear that he only remembers these people and events when he is literally there. He even has to be told that he's been back for visits previously."
That's exactly what I'm saying. When he is writing this book, he is not at the farm how can he possibly remember it in order to write about it?

In the prologue, he is writing about driving from his father's funeral and then winding up at the 'ocean.' From there, his memory comes back to him and he recounts the story's events. However, at the end of the book, he is driving away from the ocean, and his memories are already beginning to dissolve. Yet, the book is written in past tense, so how can he possibly remember the events if they've been wiped from his mind?

That's like saying "On August 5, 2006, I suffered complete amnesia of my life before, and here is what happened leading up to to that day." Obviously, if my memories have been wiped out, then I can't possibly remmeber the events that led up my amnesia.

The book would make sense if it was written in present tense, but it does make sense as written in past tense. That's just a fact.

It doesn't ruin the book for me. The fact that electric chairs weren't invented until a few years AFTER the events of The Green Mile doesn't prevent The Green Mile from being a movie I love, any more than the infamous inexplicable eagle paradox of LOTR stops me from loving LOTR. But, it's still a mistake that doesn't make any rational sense.

To me, it's a testament to how good the story is that this obvious loophole passes by everyone.

Again, I still gave the book 4 stars...and I reserve 5 stars only for the great classics, the books that totally knock me out, so i still enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane immensely. It probably would be in my 5 star list of favs, if not for these loopholes.

As for Lettie...I never understood waht the deal was with her. If she was 11 in body only, but had actually lived for millions of years, than she should have not been 'acting like an 11 year old,' yet at various points in the book she does, indeed, act a child. I found in interesting and am still trying to decipher Gaiman's rules in this doesn't bother me, I find it more an object of curiosity.

I do wish Gaiman had written a better reason for Lettie to take the protagonist out on that first trip. It just didn't make any sense to me...and I'm not clear why Gaiman didn't just write a mmore plausible reason. I found it odd.

What I loved about the book was Gaiman's lean, efficient prose interspersed with some really beautiful bursts of poetry. When he wants to, he creates some gorgeous prose.

His monsters, especially the canvas creature that became Ursula, were fascinating. It's interesting, because her form isn't described so much in concrete detail in that fist scene, so visually I just got this impression of flapping canvas. It's surreal and sort of trippy...I really admired the way he did that, and I think it might be the best monster I've ever read.

I was also very connected to the protagonist. I really liked and empathized with that kid, and felt deeply invested with the outcome of his story...which is about the highest achievement of any book, in my opinion.

This was my first Gaiman read. I'll definitely check out his other stuff.

message 41: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Suwak | 25 comments My first love as far as books go was dinosaurs. I loved dinosaurs and had tons of books about them and would read for hours. Then, it was comic books. After that, the Dragonlance Chronicles. The DC got me into reading novels in a big way...but it was Kerouac's On the Road that made me a total, lifelong literature nerd.

message 42: by Paulina (new)

Paulina Hi, just finished Ocean at the End of the Lane and I really, really liked it (it was not my first Gaiman novel, it didn't take me unawares). I'm not going to go over the points you all just went through since you summed up all I wanted to say and more (way more). Some of these points make me want to reread the novel so I'm glad I joined this group.

I do have to say I absolutely loved how the narrator's recollections of the Hempstock farm were far more real than his recollections of his own home. Especially the tactile ones (the milk-churning, the honeycomb with cream, the brambles, the bluebells). It made everything more tangible which was a great thing considering how parabolic the book seemed at first. Another quality that I appreciate about this book, and his writing in general, is that Neil Gaiman doesn't take advantage of your emotionality. He makes the death of the kitten (nice foreshadowing there) seem normal, he doesn't attempt to make it dramatic. It's ordinary, just as it should be; he considers death and loss to be a part of life. It gives me a sense of peace that makes me look forward to reading more of his books in the midst of all of the angsty, emotional rollercoaster-inducing books out there.

And yeah, fantasy-wise, I'm happy it stopped getting such a bad rep out there. There is nothing wrong with well-written fantasy and genre-shaming is an awful, awful thing. And comic books? Don't get me started. Hawkeye and Name of the Rose are incredibly well-written, well-planned and beautifully drawn.

message 43: by Julia (last edited Aug 09, 2014 05:37PM) (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) And a shout out to Gaiman's incredible graphic novel series about the Sandman and the rest of the Endless!

message 44: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Jeff wrote: "Ivan wrote: "It's all right there in the prologue:

"If you asked me an hour before, I would have said no, I did not remember the way. I do not even think I would have remembered Lettie Hempstock..."

Damn man, you're thinking too hard. Now you have me trippin. Unless...he recounted those memories when he was there and now that he is done and driving away they are fading. You have interesting observations. you're keeping the discussion lively.

message 45: by Jeff (last edited Aug 09, 2014 06:54PM) (new)

Jeff Suwak | 25 comments Ivan wrote: "Jeff wrote: "Ivan wrote: "It's all right there in the prologue:

"If you asked me an hour before, I would have said no, I did not remember the way. I do not even think I would have remembered Let..."

Well...I think it was probably just a matter of necessity. The only way for Gaiman to tell the story to avoid this loophole would be to 1. use third person, or 2. use first person present tense. This story clearly NEEDED to get into the protagonist's head and heart in the way only first person can do. So, that leaves first person present tense...but the problems witha whole book length story in present tense are pretty huge. Ultimately, I'm guessing he just felt he had to use first person past and hope he'd be forgiven for possible loopholes.

And, I want to stress again, I absolutely 'forgive'him. It's a great book.

This is the story I told me, the book can only be written if he regained his memories someday, and they never left, I believe that in some future time he must have been called to return, Lettie is healthy, and they elected for whatever reason to allow him to keep his memories. Perhaps he even joins them. This would explain Lettie's incredibly foolish choice in bringing him along...maybe there's something about him, and they knew someday he'd join them, so they needed a kind of trail by fire. The book stresses that grandma is essentially omnipotent...she had to KNOW what was going to happen, yet she let it happen. Why? Because it all fits into the long term plan!'s so funny to me that I'm the only one who thought of this, because it's a lifelong characteristic of mine to "over think" (I don't consider it that, but I'm cool if others feel differently).

It was a wonderful book...but I think there are things that have remained untold! There's more to this story!

Another thing I was left much of his father's affair was 'magicking' by Ursula? Was there any? Or was he simply easily seduced by a beautiful woman? I wonder about that because it says so much about the father and the father/son relationshp that followed.

Towards the end of the book, when he's in the ocean and knows everything...that was my favorite section of the book. Beautiful writing...and really deep.

I loved the way Gaiman captured the mind of a young introvert. It was very made me think a lot of my own childhood.

Next Gaiman I pick up is probably going to be that graveyard book he has out. I saw that while I was buying Ocean and it looked really good. Can't believe I'm just discovering him!

message 46: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman The Graveyard Book is my favorite by him.

message 47: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Suwak | 25 comments Ivan wrote: "The Graveyard Book by Neil GaimanThe Graveyard Book is my favorite by him."

That's the one! Yea...that's gonna be my next Gaiman read.

message 48: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Suwak | 25 comments So...what did you all think about the dad? I had a hard time putting my finger on him. I wasn't sure if he was a bully at heart, or just a good dad having a hard time with a son he couldn't relate to. Was he "magicked" into almost killing his son, or did he just snap?

And how about sleeping with Ursula? Was he charmed by magic, or was he simply seduced?

I keep stewing on it, and just can't decide how to size the guy up.

message 49: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 85 comments Kiernan wise - her books are probably either too long (The Red Tree, The Drowning Girl) or too hard to get hold of (Black Helicopters, The Dry Salvages) but many people would still be well advised to check her out for both her last couple of novels and also her shorter work.

I think fantasy has a bad rep in some circles and a lot of snobbish disdain in others but there are lots of people who are open minded enough to explore the fantastic and strange literature and enjoy and value it on its merits.

Rachel Swirsky's The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen's Window is one of the stronger examples of fantastical novella from the last decade (in my view) others would include something by Jeffrey Ford (possibly Botch Town), Jeff Vandermeer's Annihilation (can be seen as SF, weird/dark fiction or fantasy to my mind) and Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link.

message 50: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 2166 comments Mod
Jeff wrote: "So...what did you all think about the dad? I had a hard time putting my finger on him. I wasn't sure if he was a bully at heart, or just a good dad having a hard time with a son he couldn't relate ..."

As I read I wanted to believe that his father had been "magicked" because it would explain away his behavior. We had no indication that the father was a philanderer or abusive to either child - these changes in character are introduced only after Ursula moves into the house - and as she is evil personified, I think we are led to believe he is under a spell. And yet, I grew up with too many Jekyll and Hyde male role models and know that the libido wants what the libido wants and damn the child that gets in the way - who knows your dirty little secret, judges you harshly and represents a constant threat of exposure.

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