Feature

Novel of the week: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman excels at exploring the mind of a 7-year-old and raises profound questions about what we lose in the rush to grow up.

(William Morrow, $26)

Don’t believe the publicity materials, said William Alexander in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. This “wrenchingly, gorgeously elegiac” book is being promoted as Neil Gaiman’s first novel for adult readers since 2005’s Anansi Boys, but it’s “actually for the children those adults used to be.” The book’s middle-aged narrator is looking back on the time when his mundane English childhood took some strange twists: The suicide of a boarder in his parents’ house unleashed supernatural forces that inspired the boy to seek help from otherworldly neighbors. Eventually, “too much symbol and metaphor begin to ricochet inside this little fairy tale,” said Ethan Gilsdorf in The Boston Globe. Gaiman’s darkly whimsical world offers little explanation as to why, for instance, a pond morphs into a bucket that contains the secrets of the universe. Yet the author excels at exploring the mind of a 7-year-old, and he raises profound questions about what we lose in the rush to grow up.

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