The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the story of a grown man returning to a place from his childhood, and remembering something magical and terrifying that happened there. On the one hand, this is perfectly within the wheelhouse of the author, who has given us such works as Sandman, American Gods, and Coraline. If there is an author more comfortable with taking the fantastic and treating it as a juxtaposition of the modern world, I have yet to read him. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a good book.
However, I think for Neil Gaiman fans, this book may fall a little short of some of his other works. One of the things that is so appealing about his works like American Gods and Anansi Boys is that the elements of magic he uses are familiar to us, at least through pop culture. The average reader of Gaiman's books knows who Thor and Loki are, or what a genie is, or that some cultures believe that names hold magical power. This slight familiarity with the folklore makes the fantastic seem more familiar, which makes how he entwines it with the modern all the more interesting.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane either abandons this or uses references so obscure I don't know them. The Hempstocks may remind you vaguely of the Fates, but they clearly aren't them. The book instead relies on a more general magic, creating a modern fairy-tale without a clear predecessor that it builds upon. There's nothing wrong with that, nor with Gaiman stretching his writing style, but as a Gaiman fan, it was something I actively noted while reading it, and it could, at times, pull me out of the story.
All that said, I enjoyed the book and think anyone interested in urban fantasy would enjoy it.
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