The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

10 03 2010

I fell in love with papercutting last year, so of course I had to have this book.

I’m a bit of a book design slut – I’ll pick up just about any book with an interesting cover.  And I’ve bought more than one purely because I liked the way it looked, with no care at all about content.  Granted, I normally only do that if the book is also on clearance – because I’m a cheap slut – so if it turns out to be awful or if I never get around to reading it, I really don’t have regrets.  But, sometimes when I’m lucky, the pretty book whose name I barely know turns out to be very very good and my cheap slutty ways pay off.  [ahem] Such was the case with The Book of Lost Things.

This is the story of David, a very serious boy living in London right as World War II is beginning.  The book opens with the death of his mother, followed quickly by his father knocking up and marrying his dead mother’s hospice nurse.  David and his father move into his new stepmother’s family house in the country where David is not happy, to put it mildly.  He escapes into the books he finds in the house, reading and rereading strange fairy tales because they remind him of his dead mother.  Which is all sad and a little sweet – until he starts seeing his mother in his dreams, and hearing the books on his shelves whisper to him, and having strange fits filled with terrifying visions.  This all builds until one day, David ends up following one of these visions through a gap in a garden wall and ends up in a different world – a terrifying and twisted world that he is destined to save.

John Connolly takes a familiar story and fills it with nightmares.  David may not have been happy at home, but this other place is not an escape filled with delights.  It is a land where fairy tales are mutated and no one is safe.  David goes on his hero’s journey to save his own life, and learns his lessons in some fairly horrifying ways.  And the reason this is all so unsettling is because it is so well written.  Even though most basic elements of the story aren’t anything new, and I had a decent idea early on how things were going to turn out, all of the details that make a simple story grand were there.  This book was exciting and unexpected and satisfying and proves that sometimes it’s okay to judge a book by its cover.




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