High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother. He is angry and 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 his imagination, he finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a land that is a strange reflection of his own world, populated by heroes and monsters, and ruled over by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book … The Book of Lost Things.
An imaginative tribute to the journey we must all make through the loss of innocence into adulthood, John Connolly's latest novel is a book for every adult who can recall the moment when childhood began to fade, and for every adult about to face that moment. The Book of Lost Things is a story of hope for all who have lost, and for all who have yet to lose. It is an exhilarating tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.
Topics: London, Forest, Bildungsroman, Metafiction, Retellings, Adventurous, Dark, Mystical, Folk and Fairy Tales, World War II, Coming of Age, Death, Stepparents, Fathers, Heartfelt, Family, Grief, Wolves, Trolls, Knights, Mothers, Journeys, and Irish Author
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He had, in truth, been losing [his mother] for a very long time. The disease that was killing her was a creeping, cowardly thing, a sickness that ate away at her from the inside, slowly consuming the light within so that her eyes grew a little less bright with each passing day, and her skin a little more pale.
After all, I just watched someone die like that. And that is how it is: something is lost every day. The first day I visited my grandfather in hospital, he smiled at me and tried to reassure me that he would be alright soon. The next time I visited him, I was the only person he recognised -- or at least, the only one he responded to (he still tried to smile at me, especially when I told him I was making Grandma a cup of tea). Then the next day, he couldn't see us at all, and all he could say was "I don't understand". And then the next day he took one long last breath and died. So yes, that's the way it goes: illness eats a person up from the inside, stealing them piece by piece, day by day.
Maybe it was that first bit and how it struck me as just right, and the fact that I'm grieving now, that got me so invested in the story. In a way, I expected all of it: it's basically the same story as the first Malory Towers book, or even Edmund and Lucy from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Sibling jealousies and conflicts. The rewritings of fairytales weren't all that surprising to me, immersed as I am in fairytale retellings. But something about the turn of phrase was just right, and I fell in love with the quiet love story of Roland and Raphael, as well.
There's a lot of violence and ugliness in this book, and sometimes that doesn't read very well. I read reviews of this that felt the retellings were quite female-positive, but it didn't feel that way to me. There're powerful women in the story, but their sexuality is almost part of the horror. It's the homosexual relationship between Raphael and Roland, with one of them safely off-screen, which is idealised, and the homosocial relationships between Roland and David, or David and his father, or David and the Woodsman. The more I think about that the more uncomfortable I feel -- though Anna is free of that disturbing power (but then, she's a perpetual child), and so is David's mother (although the bit with kissing her corpse could ring a little oddly, and her coaxing voice leading him astray, and the whole dead Madonna thing she has going on). David's step-mother is maybe the most positive: he sees her negatively, but comes to understand her better and try harder to get along with her.
Anyway, those points didn't stop me enjoying the story quite a lot, but it's worth thinking about.
Oh, and after reading other reviews and so on, I decided to skip the 150 pages of analysis that Connolly includes. I'm aware of pretty much all the fairytales mentioned, so I don't need the background, and I preferred on reflection to let the story stand alone. I'm a postgrad lit student, I don't need Connolly to do the work for me...more
After David's mother is gone, his father falls in love with Rose. Eventually they have a baby together who David strongly resents. At the same time David begins to experience 'attacks' where he blacks out and hears books speaking. One night he hears an airplane outside and goes to explore, he hides in a garden wall crack and is transported to a fairy tale world.
Initially I was excited about this turn in the story and loved some parts ie. Snow White and the communist 7 dwarfs; the downside is that the fairy world is very, very dark. I am ok with some darkness but I felt like parts of the novel were just horrible for no real reason. Shocking just for the sake of it. There is a Crooked Man who is exceptionally evil. You would expect the good guys to win sometimes but not so much here. I kept expecting some twist: his mother was really alive, the lost children would be found, his stepmother was really behind it all, but no, nothing good comes of the promising initial storyline.
Ultimately David has to find the King in order to go back home. His path there and the insight into the Crooked Man turned me off from the story. I didn't think that the sexually perverse tones and extreme violence in some sections added to the book in any way. Actually, the book gave me some nightmares. It was disturbing stuff. Not my cup of tea at all.more
David, a 12 year old boy who loves his books, loses his mother. He gets lost in the world that's slowly evolving around him - there's a great war going on, his father is moving on with his life, and, well he's an angry 12 year old boy. His mother has been taken from him, a usurper is trying to take her place, and he's being replaced with a half sibling. This book is largely about his grief and loss and coming to terms with them.
In the middle of all of this he falls into a fantasy world that is a world made by the minds of those that have come before him, and to some sense, himself. The stories he grew up reading are real, and they're ugly. All of those dark fairy tales (that are all dark if you ignore the Disneyfication) are made even darker, and it's absolutely delicious. There's sex, death, child abuse, torture, power grabs, communist collectives, gluttony... Everything that makes those old folk tales scary... and awesome.
Connolly does a great job of writing a distraught child, that I can personally feel for. David loses his mother at 12. I lost my mother at 11. David's father (in a few months) starts seeing someone who was involved in her caretaking. My father also married one of my dead mother's caretakers. David is bitter and angry and lost at life and having a hard time finding his way, and it was written as real as I remember it being for me. Through the heartbreaking journey, either I sympathized with David too much and got sucked in, or Connolly just wrote it damn well, and it was easy to be sucked in.
The fantasy land was fantastic. It was dark, and it was dangerous. And through it, David grew up, not too much, but enough. There are hints at things just beyond his knowledge that he can't (or won't quite) recognize, but in the end he became a better person for what he went through. He learns he can understands and can accept life's changes.
I love re-imagined fairy/folk tales, and this is easy one of my more favorite books with that element. The blending of the dark tales and the coming of age was wonderful. Definitely not a kid's book, but definitely awesome.more
I found the plot too predictable, and worse, the solutions to the many of the crisis points seemed rather contrived.more
Several shots and a few emotional chasers later, Labyrinth walked in dressed quite like David Bowie sans the glam. Looking quite dapper, he sat down across from Narnia. Narnia, now quite intoxicated, was susceptible to his Bowie-esque charm. A brief but tumultuous courtship ensued. Largely due to Narnia's Christian upbringing and distrust in the birth control methods of the day, she soon found herself well with child and thus nine months later, The Book of Lost Things was born.
Book of Lost Things = Narnia Labyrinth / Several Shots of Faerie Tale.
It was also rather scandalous when it was released that Narnia had a longstanding affair with The Never-Ending Story so the patronage of Lost is questioned. Also Labyrinth was a well-known as a lover of the lads as well as the ladies in some circles so it is quite possible that some sort of lurid threesome took place.more
So, I hear you asking, why only three stars? Because for me, and this is a very personal reaction, it never took off and became magical or dreamlike. Which, for a book about magic and dreams is kind of a problem. The elements are there, and your mileage may vary, in fact if you look at other reviews you can see that clearly it does vary.
At some point in any book there's a moment where I decide (or don't)to let go and throw myself into the story. Almost a mental pause where I think okay, here we go, and I fling myself into the next wave and let it carry me out into the unknown sea of the rest of the story. In this book, for me, that moment never arrived.
PS: For those who see fairy tales in the description, please note, this is NOT a children's book. Do not give it to kids of your accquaintance unless you know ahead of time they like things very dark and adult.more
Mostly I liked it, but I did think it dragged a little in spots--slow to get going, too much time spent with the seven dwarves, and goodness how I hate that typical ending, which halfway through the book I was praying they wouldn't use. It's a variant on the theme, but it's a theme that's been done to death.
The end of the audio suggested that, if I enjoyed this book, I might try The Stolen Child, which I read a few weeks ago and really liked, so at least they were spot-on with that one.more
The story itself was fine, although it was way too derivative. Reading it, I could almost visualize the pitch meeting, with Connolly explaining that the book would be like the Narnia books and Grimm's fairy tales ... but darker!
And the added darkness worked. The Book of Lost Things, despite being predictable, was a good read, with an interesting story and a few moments of genius.
And then there's the reader's guide. I feel stupid harping on this, but Mr. Connolly (or perhaps his publishers) seems to think that his novel was a lot more opaque than it actually was. But his use and alteration of existing stories was not nearly interesting enough to earn him the opportunity to pull back the curtain and demonstrate the inner workings of his plot. There was no curtain.more