Book & Author
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Returning to his childhood home in the English countryside for a funeral, the unnamed middle-aged narrator of this haunting, lyrical fable finds himself drawn to an ordinary-looking farmhouse that’s anything but. As long-buried memories surface, he recalls events that occurred at Hempstock Farm when he was seven.
Neil Gaiman was born in Hampshire, UK, and now lives in the United States near Minneapolis.
A self-described “feral child who was raised in libraries,” Gaiman credits librarians with fostering a life-long love of reading: “I wouldn’t be who I am without libraries. I was the sort of kid who devoured books, and my happiest times as a boy were when I persuaded my parents to drop me off in the local library on their way to work, and I spent the day there.”
Don’t you wish Neil Gaiman could come speak to your book group and answer your questions? Well he can – sort of – as he has recorded this video for book groups (posted by William Morrow) where he answers their questions about The Ocean at the End of the Lane:
Quote from the book
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.
Topics the book will bring for discussion include:
- The ways that children perceive things differently than adults – and whether or not their perspective is more truthful.
- One of the main motivators for the characters in the book is loneliness. How do adults and children respond to loneliness in different ways? In similar ways?
- The narrator tells us that his father often burnt their toast and always ate it with apparent relish. He also tells us that later in life, his father admitted that he had never actually liked burnt toast, but ate it to avoid waste, and that his father’s confession made the narrator’s entire childhood feel like a lie: “it was as if one of the pillars of belief that my world had been built upon had crumbled into dry sand.” What other “pillars of belief” from childhood does he discover to be false? How do these discoveries affect him? Are there any beliefs from your own childhood that you discovered to be false?
More discussion questions are available from Reading Group Guides.
I do think your book group must listen to Neil Gaiman answer questions from book clubs in the video posted above. He’s such a fascinating man to listen to!
In said video, Gaiman references his poem “Instructions”, and talks about how it is similar to The Ocean at the end of the lane. Here is a link to that poem.
While you are watching, there is a lot food mentioned in the book that would be great refreshments to serve at your meeting. The Novel Meals blogger mentions quite a few of them in this blog entry – though not a lot of specific recipes. If anyone knows how to make “a pie stuffed with apples and swollen raisins and crushed nuts, all topped with a thick yellow custard, creamier and richer than anything” please let me know! Still, you could serve some builders tea and pancakes or porridge with blackberry jam.
Neil Gaiman shares his favorite way to make porridge.
Do you know how to make that apple/raisin/nut pie? What else would you like to share with other book groups interested in this book? Comment on this post and let us know!