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The Book of Lost Things

John Connolly

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (2 Reviews)
Book Details

Publisher : Hodder and Stoughton

Published : 2007

Copyright : John Connolly 2006

ISBN-10 : PB 0-340-89948-4
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-340-899489

Publisher's Write-Up

'Everything You Can Imagine is Real.'

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the loss of his mother. He is angry and he is alone, with only the books on his shelf for company.

But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness, and as he takes refuge in the myths and fairytales so beloved of his dead mother he finds that the real world and the fantasy world have begun to meld. The Crooked Man has come, with his mocking smile and his enigmatic words: 'Welcome, your majesty. All hail the new king.'

And as war rages across Europe, David is violently propelled into a land that is both a construct of his imagination yet frighteningly real, a strange reflection of his own world composed of myths and stories, populated by wolves and worse-than-wolves, and ruled over by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a legendary book… The Book of Lost Things.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Lexie Moonstone (310711) Rating (8/10)
Review by John Alwyine-Mosely (080309) Rating (7/10)

Review by Lexie Moonstone
Rating 8/10
Some books are special. They stand out in the literary landscape like tall trees. This is one of those books.

12 year old David is a troubled child. His beloved mother has died after a long illness, World War 2 is breaking out and he's started having 'attacks' where he blacks out and wakes up with strange memories. As he feels more estranged from his father and his new family, David clings to the books and fairytales that he shared with his mother. The line between reality and fantasy begins to blur and soon David finds himself in a strange land where nightmares manifest and fairytales are real but twisted. He sets out on a journey to see the King and his Book of Lost Things in the hope of getting home.

Of course, the real journey is David's coming of age. David tries to escape the difficulties in his life by immersing himself in fantasy. However, in the fantasy world he enters (creates) he finds that he has escaped one war only to get caught up in another one. German soldiers have been replaced by wolf/human mutations - not werewolves but a hybrid species born from the coupling of Little Red Riding Hood and a wolf (I said the fairytales were twisted).

Connelly allows David to be a real person. Of course, you feel sorry for the innocent, little boy who's just lost his mother but Connelly shows the ugly, less sympathetic side of David's nature, the jealousy, spite and selfishness.

The Book of Lost Things sometimes reminded me of Don Quixote - I mean the novel not the mad knight himself. There are sentences for chapter titles, stories within stories, references to literature used out of context and the character Roland, chasing after his tower. (From English author Robert Browning's poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, often mentioned in Cervantes' Don Quixote.)

Usually the age of the protagonist is the age of the target market/reader. I personally wouldn't give this book to a 12 year old. It is gory, chilling and at times deeply disturbing. The gore is graphic and there are many deaths - including the killing and mutilation of children - and ambiguous references to rape and paedophilia.

The novel starts with the words, 'Once upon a time...' but it becomes clear pretty quick that we're not heading for 'happily ever after.' But that doesn't mean that this is a book about despair, rather it is a book about finding courage and making choices.

Overall, The Book of Lost Things is a sensitive portrayal of childhood. Enchanting, intriguing and incredibly imaginative.
Lexie Moonstone (31st July 2011)

Review by John Alwyine-Mosely
Rating 7/10
Which do you think will be read and savoured in 100 years time, the fairy stories of the Grimm Brothers with their roots in the old darkness of firelight nights or the latest Jodi Picoult about a life that the children of parents yet to be born will have no knowledge or interest in. Yet the same children when meeting the stories of world long faded even when written down by the Grimm Brothers will still be amazed and scared. Don't believe me? Well I do story telling in pubs to adults and have known an entire bar go quiet and listen intently as a story of woods, princes and monsters enfolds in their mind.

It is from this deep well that John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things draws on as he tells the story of 12 year old David's losing fight to keep his mother and family he knows a alive. His anger and grief causes him blackouts and a wish for revenge as his father deals with grief by marriage and work. David discovers the presence of the Crooked Man who can move between the world of living and story. Books start talking to him and boundaries blur so that when his anger and that of his struggling step-mother collide it sets into train his explosive entry into land of story.

Once there we meet traditional fairyland characters but from an adult and darker angle... Red riding Hood hunts out the wolf for sex and worse! It becomes clear that the adventures reflect David's fears and the choices he must make as he struggles to deal with his grief and anger. To make the wrong choices will leave worlds destroyed but so will the right ones as he learns that happy endings are for fairy stories. But as heaven is what we make it, his death when it comes is not the end of the story.

This is not a children's story but an adult story about when childhood ends and what life is made as we grow up. Its portrait of David trying to keep his mother alive and his feelings made me cry in the first 10 pages such was the lyrical nature of the writing. The stories within stories are not distractions as some reviewers suggest but insights into the characters that David meets and his own feelings and choices that he has to make. It has lots of comic moments as well as the Snow White and communist dwarfs' episode shows. However, ultimately it's a story about growing up and letting go of illusions, which makes it very sad and poignant. So if it gets to be a film think David Lynch or Tim Burton rather then Disney and you are on the right track about the tone of the book. Recommend for an easy, enjoyable and moving read.
John Alwyine-Mosely (8th March 2009)

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