Title: The Book of Lost Things
Author: John Connolly
Publishing Information: November 7, 2006 by Atria Books
Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Horror, Fairy-Tales
Series information: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 339 pages
Source: Borrowed from my local library
Recommended For: Those in the mood for a fairy tale with some dark twists
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. (Via Goodreads)
The story begins with David, obsessing over his “routine” (see: OCD) that he believes will save his mother from her life threatening illness. Unfortunately, David is unable to save her and his mother succumbs to the illness and dies. Some time after (side note: a little TOO soon after the death of David’s mother, if you ask me) David’s father remarries a woman named Rose and nine months later she gives birth to a son. It is around this time that David begins having “episodes,” moments where he blacks out and wakes up with no recollection of what happened while he was asleep. Poor David feels as if he is all alone in the world, as his father is working for the government and therefore is never home. So David is stuck in Rose’s giant house with just Rose, (who he loathes) and his new brother Georgie for company. David does his best to avoid these two and instead buries his nose in his books, as they remind him of his mother.
Rose tries her best to make David feel comfortable, and even gives him the room of her late uncle, Jonathan Tulvey. The room is filled with Jonathan’s books and trinkets and David takes comfort in seeing that someone is as connected to stories as he is. David becomes curious and asks Rose about Jonathan and she explains that when he was younger he and his little sister vanished into thin air one day. David becomes intrigued by this and as time passes he begins to hear the books in his room talk to him, and he begins to dream of a very sinister man, whom he names “The Crooked Man.” These dreams become twisted with reality and as time passes, David travels to another world in which the fairy tale characters he has grown up reading about exist. However, these characters are not the same kind and caring versions that he has grown up to love. They are sinister and grim versions, each twisted into a new form.
These characters were one of the absolute best parts of the story. I don’t want to spoil the fun for you so I will just touch upon some awesomeness. First, Snow White is a fat, disgusting and mean person. Second, Ever wonder where werewolves came from? Little Red Riding Hood had some issues with bestiality (I promise the story does NOT go into detail at this point, thank goodness, because, EW.) and the Crooked Man is quite possibly one of the creepiest villains I have yet to encounter (Rumple who?) There was also a rather kind woodsman, a loyal knight and an extremely creepy Sleeping “Beauty” thrown into the mix. All of these characters David met on his journey to see the King, the ruler of the land, who was having a very hard time ruling. David learns something from each encounter and it is through these extremely trying situations that the reader is able to see him grow from a spoiled, selfish child into a mature and kind young man.
When pondering the setting to this story I realized how unique John Connolly writes. Ultimately, he was just writing about a vast forest, a small town, and a few huge castles. Yet, in my mind I saw a darkness creeping from the corners of my imagination toward David. I saw lights extinguishing behind him as he walked down the long corridor, I saw the trees sway when there was no wind. These are things Connolly simply hinted at yet I was able to pick up on these subtle images and make them into something that made me afraid as if I was the one walking through this land.
The Book of Lost Things is harrowing and phenomenal. I haven’t been so enthralled by a novel of this genre since reading The Child Thief by Brom. It was deeply imaginative and sinister enough to have even the bravest adult looking over their shoulder while reading.
“These stories were very old, as old as people, and they had survived because they were very powerful indeed. These were the tales that echoed in the head long after the books that contained them were cast aside” (Page 10).