Monday, 25 January 2010

Just Finished: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

My unstoppable reading binge continues unabated. I'm devouring books like they're going out of fashion - I blame January skintness leaving me with little else to do but immerse myself in a fictional world where money isn't an issue...

So for the last two weeks or so I've been a regular sight on the rush hour trains and tubes clutching a copy of The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, a book I admit I was mainly attracted to because of the cover. Well, I'm pleased I'm that shallow because I really liked the book. It's about a boy, David, growing up in wartime London, whose mother dies and father remarries. His father and stepmother have a new baby, leaving David feeling a bit miffed, jealous of the attention and refusing to accept his new stepmother. Soon enough he finds himself dragged into another world, where interpretations of all the stories he's read take shape. It's not a happy place - horrific monsters are ten-a-penny and an upcoming war threatens everyone he meets. He soon finds out that he's been taken there on purpose, by a nasty piece of work called the Crooked Man, and is told that only the king will know how to help him. So David begins a journey through a world created in part by his own imagination and in part by the imaginations of others, on a quest to find a dying king who he's been told can send him home.

When I was a few chapters in, it felt a bit Shrek-like; a different take on age-old fairytales, adapted for a modern audience - but it's more than that. Like Shrek, classic children's stories are featured in a way that's completely different to how they are usually told, but the Book of Lost Things is about ten times darker. In fact, it's pretty grim in parts. [I nearly wrote Grimm then, but I thought that would be a pun too far...] So what you're left with is a children's book, for adults; a story of a boy starting to grow up and realise that there's more to life than his once narrow view of the world. It's a clever book, as soon as you feel like you're reading a book written for children, a really gruesome scene comes from nowhere and shocks you back into adult fiction - monsters don't disappear in puffs of smoke but are hacked to bits, and the heroes don't always live happily ever after.

You're actually witnessing the beginning of the end of David's childhood, and the start of his adulthood, and it's the fairytale characters he meets along the way who help David come to terms with problems he's having in real life. Through his adventures he learns to deal with grief and value the things he has.

Furtermore, it actually made me laugh out loud at one point - there's a chapter on a fat, lazy, nasty Snow White and her seven communist dwarves which is particularly funny. There's a lot to get into; a few laughs, some interesting modern twists on old ideas and a couple of disturbing scenes to keep it from being too easy a read, with a classic good vs evil backdrop.

2010 has been a good year for reading so far...

1 comment:

  1. I've been considering buying this book for a while. Mainly because the front cover always jump out at me in bookshops. You've totally convinced me to buy it. Thanks!