Neil Gaiman novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane to become a Radio 4 Book at Bedtime

The new novel by the fantasy author and sometime Doctor Who writer is set to be narrated by "a fantastic, wonderful, award-winning, perfect, top-of-the-line actor"

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the upcoming novel by fantasy author and Doctor Who writer Neil Gaiman, is to become a Radio 4 Book at Bedtime.

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The novel, due for publication on 18 June, will be read in five 15-minute instalments airing Monday to Friday at 10:45pm next month in the station’s popular and long-running weeknight strand.

It tells the story of a lonely young boy who finds himself at the mercy of ancient supernatural forces until help, and friendship, arrive in the form of a strange girl who lives on the farm down the lane – and who may just be a little older than she first appears…

“It’s a novel about memory and how the past changes us,” Gaiman told RadioTimes.com. “It’s about families and about landscapes. It’s also a story of a seven-year-old boy who winds up getting into weird stuff rather more deeply than he might have wanted to after their lodger commits suicide in the family car.

“Things would get incredibly bad for him if it wasn’t for the family who lives in the ancient farm at the end of the lane – and things may get very, very bad even without them…”

Gaiman said that accurately capturing the world of childhood had been very important to him when he was writing the novel.

“When I was a kid I would read books about childhood written by adults and I would think ‘This is really strange – this person appears to have completely forgotten what it was to be a child. Is this some kind of weird amnesia that strikes adults?’ I promised myself that I wouldn’t forget. It was something that was important to me in children’s fiction and with this book – which has a seven-year-old protagonist but is definitely not a children’s book.

“One of the things I really wanted to do was try and recreate the experience of being a kid. There’s amazingly good stuff that comes with being a child and there’s some really problematic stuff – how powerless you are, often how helpless – and the relationship that we tend to have as adults to our childhood selves is a peculiar one.

“When you’re a kid you assume that actually there’s a world of kids and of adults and the adults have it all figured out and they pass the adult exam. And then one day you look around and you have grey hair and weird lines in your face. You’re definitely not a kid any more, except that you know that you have a scared seven-year-old and a puzzled 12-year-old still living inside you.

“In some ways Ocean at the End of the Lane is as much about that as it is about anything.”

Gaiman wrote recent Doctor Who episode Nightmare in Silver, featuring the Cybermen, and is known for books including American Gods, Neverwhere and Stardust, as well as the Sandman graphic novels. He’s also a self-confessed lover of Radio 4.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the station’s second adaptation of his work this year, following the acclaimed dramatisation of his first fantasy novel Neverwhere, which starred Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer and Christopher Lee.

The narrator of the Book at Bedtime production of The Ocean at the End of the Lane is yet to be revealed but Gaiman said it would be an equally high-profile name who he described as “a fantastic, wonderful, award-winning, perfect, top-of-the-line actor” and a fan of the book.

Series producer Heather Larmour said of the as-yet-unnamed star: “We wanted somebody who could capture the intimate tone of the narrator as well as the different voices involved. I’m quite excited by who we’ve got and I think they’ll be utterly fabulous.” 

The Book at Bedtime production of The Ocean at the End of the Lane will air in July.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is published by Headline on 18 June