Title: The Book of Lost Things
Author: John Connolly
Publisher: Atria Books
Page Count: 339
Publication Date: 2006
Category/Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Fairy Tales, Adventure, Mystery,
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.9)
My Rating: ★★★★☆(4.0)
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.
The book begins by introducing us to 12-year old David who has just lost his mother after a long-term illness. Shortly after, his father remarries and the family expands with a new baby brother. Needless to say, David who is in the middle of still grieving for his mother is having difficulties coming to terms with this change in his life and is spiteful and hateful towards his new brother and stepmother.
Deep in his depression, he begins to hear voices coming out of the books he and his mother used to read together and first sees the Crooked Man. One late night, David hears his mother calling out to him to rescue her from something horrible. He follows her voice to a hole in the garden wall where David finds himself in another world where dark, grim versions of classic fairy tale characters exist.
This turned out to be a lot darker and much deeper than I was expecting. While, most of the tone is serious and even bleak, there are some great moments of comedy.
“You mean they killed her?” asked David.
“They ate her,” said Brother Number One. “With porridge. That’s what ‘ran away and was never seen again’ means in these parts. It means ‘eaten.'”
“Um and what about ‘happily ever after’?” asked David, a little uncertainly. “What does that mean?”
“Eaten quickly,” said Brother Number One.
To say that this is a series of various retellings of fairy tales wouldn’t do this book justice. Instead, it is a coming of age and powerful exploration of character, choices, and life.
David’s character is a slow-burning but dynamic one, changing in bits and starts from boy to man with each new encounter.
“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”
The Book of Lost Things itself turns out to be an intense and gorgeous illustration of human life. The closing pages don’t hold back on the potential and/or inherent tragedy of life in general but at the same time is just simply a part of the greater cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
This novel is beautifully written, richly characterized, and brilliantly executed.