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Must do’s: What we like this week

BOOKS

Neil Gaiman's novels are covers between which mythical creatures and beleaguered protagonists live and interact amid supernatural plots often dealing with youth and struggle. The fairy tale-esque character of his modern adult fantasies lightly masks "the intelligible message that can be derived from it," writes Laura Miller.

Gaiman’s first novel for adults in eight years, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” would seem to follow this pattern; most of the action, recounted in the first person, describes the experiences of a nameless 7-year-old boy. But “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” does feel different, and not only because of its framing device. The novel begins and ends with the narrator, now an adult, returning to the English village where he grew up, for a family funeral. (The deceased is never identified, but there are hints it is the man’s father.) We learn that he’s been married and separated, that he is a working artist, that he has grown children. When he looks back on the strange events of his childhood, it is through the mellowed and slightly melancholy lens of middle-age. What the story sacrifices of the sweet, glassy purity of a child’s view, it compensates for with the complex sepia of maturity; it’s the difference between a bright young white wine and a well-aged burgundy.

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