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Here we talk about read books. > The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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message 1: by Tye (new)

Tye (exjuan_valdez) I enjoyed the book. There were some included discussion topics after the acknowledgements.

The narrator has returned to his hometown for a funeral (we never learn whose). Do you think that framing his childhood story with a funeral gives this story a pessimistic outlook rather than an optimistic one?


message 2: by Jordan (new)

Jordan | 240 comments Mod
My audiobook copy didn't have those topics included, unfortunately. No, I don't think it set a pessimistic tone. However, the funeral interests me. Who was it for?


message 3: by Garret (new)

Garret (garretldavis) | 93 comments I think, speaking of the framing, it seems to tie the themes of the Ocean (as the fantasy entity - can you say Quiddity?) as the no end/no beginning of all existence together nicely. The funeral of whomever it was began our story with the "birth" of the narrator's largest childhood life event, with the "death" of Lettie and beginning of his adult forgetting (assumedly caused by the Hempstocks) ending the tale. Does it detract or set a pessimistic mood? No, I think it frames the tale in an unseen way until the end.


message 4: by Garret (new)

Garret (garretldavis) | 93 comments Also, to anyone who has read his book "Coraline" or anyone else: I noticed several similarities throughout even though this one an adult novel and Coraline was for children/YA. Coraline was great, and up there with Clive Barker's The Thief of Always for favorites among youth-centered books, but I actually like Coraline several levels more than this one. I thought it was decent and well-written, but I also felt that it was more novella than novel and would have fit Gaiman's above-average story collections better than a standalone "novel."


message 5: by Tye (new)

Tye (exjuan_valdez) I also do not think it set a pessimistic tone. However, about the funeral....I'm inclined to agree with Garret. Possibly allegorical? Maybe Lettie really did move to Australia?


message 6: by Tye (new)

Tye (exjuan_valdez) Ginnie Hempstock tells the narrator that you don't pass of fail at being a person, although Lettie draws the narrator back to the pond so she can see if her sacrifice was worthwhile. Do you think it was? How has the narrator grown as a person?


message 7: by Garret (new)

Garret (garretldavis) | 93 comments Lettie truly moving to Australia... I think that would negate the whole of the fantasy. It's kind of like those films where the main antagonist wakes from the ordeals and it "was all just a dream." Being a natural dreamer and Romantic I believe Lettie did...disperse...into the Ocean of existence as seen by the narrator during his vision of sorts. Or..........maybe Australia is a magic kingdom full of mysteries and gnomes and 8ft tall leprechauns.


message 8: by Jordan (last edited Jan 26, 2015 08:43PM) (new)

Jordan | 240 comments Mod
Lettie definitely did not move to Australia. She is wherever whatever she is goes when they need to do whatever it is they do.

As for the funeral, I still ask, who was it for?

Also, when Old Lady Hempstock was talking to little Ringo Geldof after the Hunger Birds attack she made a comment about how they could have destroyed this world and nobody would notice, it was just a world, after all. I liked that bit.

Also, yes, this would have been ideal in a collection a la 'I Am Legend" The length pleased me, but y'all know I love brevity. It left me wanted more, which is never a bad thing.


message 9: by Tye (last edited Jan 27, 2015 08:21AM) (new)

Tye (exjuan_valdez) All i'm saying is that the narrator is a child. Perhaps these magical things that happened are not really what happened. Even in the realms of the story. Perhaps the narrator didn't like Ursula do to the affair she was having with his father? Not knowing quite yet what was going on, just not good. He turned her into a monster. The imagination of a fictional character. Lettie moved to Australia??? Perhaps the Ocean at the end of the lane is the ocean separating Sussex from Australia(Atlantic & Indian, possibly Pacific)? Perhaps it was just a pond that Lettie drowned in whilst playing with the narrator and the "ocean" is what separates the physical and spiritual world?

The story juxtaposes the memories of childhood with the present of adulthood. In what ways do children perceive things differently than adults? Do you think there are situations in which a child's perspective can be more "truthful" than an adults?


message 10: by Garret (new)

Garret (garretldavis) | 93 comments To continue this debate, I can understand where you're coming from Tye and I think I could lend support if it weren't for the ending. Repressed childhood memories are a common phenomena but I believe the Hempstock's presence during and after events gives credence to the nature of fantasy. Take into consideration, too, that the Hempstock family has been included in other works by Gaiman (such as Stardust) where the fantasy cannot be contended or debated. The Hempstock women seemed way more real and I'm control than the narrator which, to me, could stand up for our own reality being the true fantasy.


message 11: by Tye (last edited Jan 27, 2015 08:36AM) (new)

Tye (exjuan_valdez) Point taken. I've never read Stardust(just seen the movie, loved it). Were the Hempstock's in the movie adaptation? Just trying to remember the character.


message 12: by Garret (new)

Garret (garretldavis) | 93 comments To be quite honest, it has been years since seeing the movie and even longer than reading the novel. However, I did check out the reference because it seemed familiar, especially with Gaiman's comment about the Hempstocks always being there when he needs them in the afterword of The Ocean. I want to lean toward them not being in the movie adaptation, but I cannot 100% say for sure or not.

To Jordan:
The funeral bugged me to right from the beginning, just as the narrator was never named during the novel. It seemed to add the focus on the fantastic rather than the mundane, as if saying this fantasy was more real than the day-to-day events the narrator went through life experiencing. I think this ties into your enjoyment of the hunger birds saying destroying our existence was nothing more than the words spoken and held no further weight. They, along with the Hempstocks and any other magical creatures and elements alive in this universe, live in an existence far greater than the normal humans within that world and see, feel, taste, do everything with a greater sense of being than we do. I think the Hempstocks could agree with the hunger birds on some level, but also understood that no matter how existence is lived, life is still precious for what it is. I did wonder briefly if the funeral was for the narrator himself, but the fact that the Hempstocks tell him that he has been there and done this several times over the years and would return to do it again (as they discern whether or not Lettie's death into the Ocean - and possibly Lettie herself doing as much as the Ocean along with everything that purported to entail) made me think that it definitely was not. I think the point, as mentioned, is more to show how the fantastic was more real and of greater focus than the events humanity lives and dies through in not knowing the greater world around us. It was clearly important enough for the narrator to come to, but by comparison it matters little when placed side-by-side to short events when he was 7 years old.


message 13: by Jordan (new)

Jordan | 240 comments Mod
The part I was talking about was one of the two older Hempstock women. I tried to skim through the book just now, but I must have missed it. I believe she compared the worlds to grains of sand...or maybe I did that myself. I don't know. It was a very "There are other worlds than these" type comment.

As for the funeral, here is what I noticed. Correct me if I missed anything:

*He spoke at the funeral before going to the Hempstock Farm.
*He mentioned his sister in a sentence followed by the phrase "and other well-wishers."
*He mentions people will ask him about his wife and that their marriage soured an failed long ago.
*He says his kids wished they could be there.

From that I deduce that it was not one of his parents or his children. It wasn't his sister or ex-wife. It wasn't his own funeral due to the Hempstocks saying he would be back again, and the fact that he spoke. It could be a friend, but he made several remarks about how he had no friends. It's not likely a distant family member because if it were why would his sister be a well-wisher and not a mourner alongside him?

It seems that Neil deliberately wrote this part to be vague and open-ended, but I would love to hear any theories.

As for your thoughts, Tye, I get where you are coming from. I have a bias against the sort of discussion where there is no real evidence to support a theory. Sure, maybe Neil planned for this book to be about a grown man who looks back on his childhood and realizes it was all in his imagination. Maybe it's a tale of a coping mechanism for a kid who feels his family doesn't love him. Maybe Lettie really did move to Australia and the loss of his only childhood friend was too devastating for him to deal with. Hell, maybe he is autistic. Maybe the Hempstocks never existed, that they are hallucinations he experiences while on drugs...which uses to cope with his emotions.

I didn't see any evidence for any of that, though I am by no means the most observant reader. Did you? What do you think was really going on and why?


message 14: by Garret (new)

Garret (garretldavis) | 93 comments Quick thought: could the funeral POSSIBLY be the girl he speaks of a couple times giving him his first kiss?


message 15: by Jordan (new)

Jordan | 240 comments Mod
Possible? Yes, I didn't catch anything that would refute the possibiity.

However, he did say that she married and moved away, right? Also, that he never saw her again. I suppose that could mean "he never saw her (alive) again."

Why would they be missing him if it was her funeral? Why would he speak at the funeral of a girl he kissed 30 years ago? These are questions.


message 16: by Garret (new)

Garret (garretldavis) | 93 comments Honestly, with as vague as the events were - even some of those within the meat of the story - the funeral was probably simply a plot device to bring the narrator back to his once-childhood home. He's told he comes every few years to be judged, essentially, and I would assume that some event has to bring him back to that specific area every so often. I'm sure it was a person he knew and not a fabrication (but who knows?), but the point seems to be that the visit to the Hempstock farm is the true reason as far as this universe is concerned.


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