Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

A Glimpse of Childhood’s Old Magic: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Audio)

book cover imageAt not quite six hours long, the story you hear in the audiobook edition of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, written and read by Neil Gaiman, hits you with the focused force of a novella. It’s a powerful evocation of lost childhood innocence, courage, and strength (also the stretchiness of imagination, and what we allow ourselves to know).

The unnamed man narrating the story of a season in his childhood when he was an unhappy, bookish boy of seven, is back in town only briefly, for a funeral, when he drives to the old farmhouse at the end of the long country lane he used to live on. When he walks down to the pond and sits on a bench there, all his memories of this scary but wonderful time in his life come flooding back to him. It was a time when he had a friend, eleven-year-old Lettie Hempstock, who lived at the end of the lane with her old mother and even older grandmother – all women who turn out to have ways of seeing and controlling the underbelly or hidden depths of the world that the adults don’t seem to know about, that before now had only existed in the world of books. A time when a pond could clearly be a simple pond, but somehow also, at the same time, be an entire ocean. A time when a child is granted a glimpse of the old magic that is hidden by the normal world of adults, when a crack appears between the worlds.

Neil Gaiman’s portentous reading and English intonation brings out underlying meanings in the plain words he uses when to write fantasy. I think I enjoyed the simplicity of the story’s language (meant to convey the clear but also confused vision of ordinary life that people have when they are children) more on audio than I would have reading this book in print. It must be difficult to convey the simplicity of a child’s viewpoint throughout an entire book for adults without ending up having written a children’s book. The author succeeds here by having the narrative be an adult’s memory of a childhood time of crisis, so some of what was not understood by the boy himself at the time is understood by the adult who is looking back and by the reader.

From the publisher:

A brilliantly imaginative and poignant fairy tale from the modern master of wonder and terror, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman’s first new novel for adults since his #1 New York Times bestseller Anansi Boys.

Watch and listen to author Neil Gaiman read an excerpt from The Ocean at the End of the Lane here.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Gaiman, Neil, author & narrator
William Morrow, 2013
5.75 hours on 5 CDs

Disclosure: I borrowed this audiobook through the public library.

Other opinions of this audiobook (all very good to excellent):
Audiofile
Devourer of Books
The Guilded Earlobe
That’s What She Read

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And Then What Happened?: Stories edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio (Audio)

cover image of StoriesIn his introduction to this short story collection by well-known novelists and short story writers, editor Neil Gaiman explains that the collection came about when he solicited fellow authors for stories that would make readers ask, “And then what happened?” He says that to him this is the hallmark of a good story, which I took to mean that a good story needs to have a strong plot, not just good writing or good characters, but it seemed to me as though some authors misunderstood and just left off the endings of their stories.

They did leave me wondering “…and then what happened,” but with annoyance rather than pleasure, as if I had been reading a Choose Your Own Adventure™ book with all of the possible plot permutations torn out of the back. After checking a few times to make sure I hadn’t messed up the track order on my iPod or missed transferring some of the stories’ endings onto it, I realized that some of the stories really did just end without a resolution. Ambiguous endings, fine, but these were beyond ambiguous. They were simply non-endings.

There were other really great stories that left me thinking about the characters and what may have happened next to them without making me feel as though the ending had been left off. Many excellent short story writers contributed to this collection, including Joyce Carol Oates and Neil Gaiman himself, but a best-selling novelist does not necessarily a good short story writer make.

Since I picked this audiobook out mainly because a couple of my favorite audiobook narrators read stories on it, I still enjoyed listening to Stories, though. Even the stories that weren’t as great as the others were still read very engagingly by star-quality audiobook narrators Katherine Kellgren and Jonathan Davis, along with two actor/narrators who were new to me on audio, but also excellent – Peter Francis James and Euan Morton.

All 27 stories have a fantastical element to them, and there’s a good representation of fantasy, s/f, and horror writers as well as authors like Carolyn Parkhurst, Jodi Picoult, and Chuck Palahniuk, and Stewart O’Nan, who aren’t known for writing in those genres.

Sample the audio edition of Stories: All-New Tales edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio here.

Read the AudioFile review here.

Stories: All-New Tales
Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, eds.
HarperAudio, 2010
978-0-7927-7273-6
18.25 hours on

Disclosure: I borrowed this audiobook through my public library. Yay for libraries!

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Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (AUDIO)

Audiobook Listeners — Log into the library catalog ASAP and request Anansi Boysby Neil Gaiman (pronounced GAY-mun). It is performed to pitch-perfect perfection by Lenny Henry, an English comedian and actor.

In Anansi Boys, dull Fat Charlie Nancy is engaged to be married and has a boring office job in London. When his estranged father dies, strange things start happening. Fat Charlie’s charismatic brother Spider shows up unexpectedly with his odd, inexplicable powers of suggestion and creation. For Fat Charlie, his brother’s arrival is like an entrance to another world — one that includes creatures out of African folklore and ghosts.

According to the library’s Biography Resource Database, audiobook reader Lenny Henry won the 2003 British Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievement Award, among many others. His male and female voices are all immediately distinguishable from each other and complement Gaiman’s dry wit and writing style. On a side note, he recently appeared as a shrunken head in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Preview the audiobook at HarperCollins here.