Date Read: 19 July 2017
Published by Hodder and Stoughton, 2007
Verdict: Ticks all my boxes. Could have been better.
High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.
Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.
I am as surprised as anyone about my rating – I genuinely thought I would adore this book. So much in fact that I kept putting off reading it to ensure I’d get the most of it. On the surface, this book is perfect for me as it combines many of my favourite things: fairy tales, hidden worlds, adult books with children as the lenses through which to see these hidden worlds, re-tellings, a sibling relationship that feels real, imaginative world building and and and.
Don’t get me wrong, this book was perfectly alright; it is very readable and well-plotted. The characters and their relationships make sense, the world created is interesting, and the fairy tales are well integrated. I am still dissappointed because it could have been SO much better.
We follow David who is mourning his mother and feels betrayed that his father has found a new wife and had a child with her. He starts having seizures and seeing and hearing strange things until he finds himself in a new world – a world so very strange but still familiar, one where he has to fear for his life and will have to be braver than he has ever been.
See, that sounds just like my type of book. Maybe my expecation just were too high and I was hoping for it to be more like “Pan’s Labyrinth” – one of my all-time favourite movies. I thought the atmosphere could have been developed better to more work with the world detailed. I found the language to be too simplistic or not simplistic enough, I am not sure – if you are going to use different fairy tales to weave your tapestry your language needs to mirror those very closely or not at all. I reckon I caught most allusions to different fairy tales – I did grow up reading fairy tales, again and again and again – and this might actually have been one of my problems. The world felt very familiar to me and as such never completely original (I know that originality wasn’t the point, I still think it could have been fresher).
So yeah, kind of dissappointed but still a very readable book.
First sentence: “Once upon a time – for that is how all stories should begin – there was a boy who lost his mother.”