Ocean Sea, By Alessandro Bariccotrs Alexander McEwan

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Allessandro Baricco's extraordinary novel describes what happens when several unusual characters, each burdened with a particular problem, meet at a remote seaside hotel.

Professor Bartleboom carries with him a mahogany box full of love letters he's never posted, each to his beloved – although he has no beloved. He's at the inn to research an "Encyclopaedia of Limits". Also present are a beautiful woman adulterer whose husband believes the solitude of the sea might make her forget her lover; an artist who submerges himself in the sea up to his heart every day; and a girl possessed by "an uncontrollable sensitivity of spirit". After the arrival of a mysterious sailor called Adams, it becomes clear that there is a purpose to them being gathered at the inn at the same time.

A book about being, metaphysics juggled like the best trick of a wise old clown, this is a novel that at least suggests there's more to life than what any rationalist would tell you.