“Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?” (The Ocean at the End of the Lane ch.6)
When I finished reading Neil Gaiman’s most recent novel written for adults, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I realised that the above question, which was posed by the protagonist, was one of the things that etched in my mind. Is this true today? Do adults really distance themselves from reading fantasy and fiction? Clearly this cannot be the case, as one only has to think of the Harry Potter series, which attracted a vast number of readers of all ages.
To take a closer look at this phenomenon of adult readers turning to children’s literature, Rachel Falconer’s book entitled The Crossover Novel: Contemporary Children’s Fiction and its Adult Readership, serves as a useful and highly interesting source. Falconer claims, that “reading children’s fiction can help us to work out new ways of living in the present, when the major transitions of life are no longer as clearly distinguishable as they once were” (189). But how does returning to children’s literature come together with Gaiman’s novel for adults?
Gaiman may have written a book for adults, but the elements used in it strongly resemble those used in classical children’s fiction. Thus its effect is essentially the same; he is giving new ways of coping with our present issues. In the following blog posts I will make an attempt to elaborate further on this idea by analysing these elements in Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and returning to the initial question what I hope to answer more thoroughly is the following: Why do adults want to read about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?