“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”


Myth and memory: by all the accounts the last meeting of the Brown Baggers was certainly the stuff of legend, but these concepts were very specific to September’s selection, Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  

While opinions on the book were mixed, a few readers admitted a growing appreciation after the group discussion. Many readers appreciated the examination of power, especially within families and experienced as a child. The ambiguous nature of good and evil was a fascinating topic. Certain readers were convinced that this was a “true” fantasy story; that is, that these magical occurrences were genuinely happening to the narrator. Others were just as certain that this was merely how our bookish narrator made sense of a grim upbringing. Even without a definite opinion either way, it made for scintillating consideration and great group repartee!  

The importance and ephemeral qualities of memory seem to be a theme the Brown Baggers tackle often, but our discussion remained vibrant. Perhaps this slightly fantastical take kept the motif fresh. One group member shared the idea that once you narrate a memory, that version becomes the memory. Another group member had an interesting take on the book. While not a fan of this Gaiman work in particular, he found a curious similarity to the war stories he more typically enjoys. Details relayed via remembrance may never be quite correct, but they may be beside the point in a meaningful retelling.

More Information:

Check out the rest of Neil Gaiman’s works at JMRL. There’s something for all ages, even some film adaptations on DVD.

Have some questions? Gaiman answers top book club questions about the book on YouTube.

Read a review from the New York Times or NPR.

Gaiman is very active in all corners of the internet, but a good place to start is his personal website

Looking for a readalike? Try one of these titles or ask for a recommendation through JMRL’s What Do I Read Next? service.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Join the Brown Baggers on Thursday, October 15 at noon to discuss Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher.

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