Originally, this book served as a filler in a charity shop offer of buy four books for £1, and I must admit that my first grab for the book was made by the beautifully designed cover. But I was very surprised by how much of a good choice I had unconsciously made.
John Connolly has tapped into the twisted miming of fairytales which is oh so common nowadays, but his telling of many different stories compared to one focus and his rather dark depictions, for me, set it aside from the rest. It’s fair to say that this is not something for those faint of heart.
“. . . For a lifetime was but a moment in that place, and each man dreams his own heaven.
And in the darkness David closed his eyes, as all that was lost was found again.”
His telling of half-human wolves, screeching harpies, and bloody axe blades are far more prominent than fairy godmothers and sassy princesses yet, Connolly still conveys the psychological drama of a boy dealing with the war and his mother’s death.
The protagonist stumbles on a secret world, which is alike to stories such as Alice in Wonderland with their whimsical nature, and heads to the king’s castle, where he hopes to receive a magic tome, the Book of Lost Things, which will help him find his way home. The high stakes within the narrative is emphasized by the consequent actions of the protagonist which makes him even more relatable as a character. He behaves badly, upset by the transfer of his father's affections to a new woman and by the baby who pushes him out of his father’s love. And he pays for his mistakes even as he finds the courage to follow the mirage of his mother's voice crying from beyond the grave.
The Book Of Lost Things is single-mindedly harrowing and rarely playful. David must puzzle out this world of smashed-up stories with the help of his own love of books and his wavering sense of justice and responsibility. However, although the new take on fairytales is refreshing and dark, there was one instance that irked me. David stumbles across the seven dwarfs who practically beg him to go back to their cottage and see what they have to deal with, inside lies an obese, self-absorbed Snow White who does nothing but complain and demand. It seems to be a bit of a cop out, to twist the fact that Snow White who was generous enough to clean into her being a slob who doesn’t have that drive anymore. As a history lover it drew too close of a reflection to war propaganda where enemies are painted in ugly lights in order to achieve a point. That was the only part that I cringed while reading. Everything else is good though.
But let’s talk about the love of books here.
Perhaps my favourite element of the book was how important books and stories were to not only character and plot development but to the reader themselves:
“Stories were different, though; they came alive in the telling…they wanted us to give them life.”
Finally my growing love for books and reading was explained so exceptionally that I had to read passages aloud time and time again, and then put the book down just to marvel at the writing style. The whole book is about stories and reading itself and to finally put my own feelings onto the page is wonderful to hear.
If you want to read a book that is everything classical fairytales and coming of age stories are not, then you should read this book. If you want to read something about books, because you share a love of them then you should read this book.
Would I read it again?
Hell yes. I still read over passages sometimes to put my feelings into words.
Would I recommend it?
Yes. This a like the stories of the Grimm brothers but all smashed together in a beautiful tale. IT’S BEAUTIFUL OKAY.