The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly - Book Review

The Book of Lost Things jumps out at you. The cover art is beautiful and the premise enticing. Heaps of praise have been handed to it. And the website? Well, it's a shimmering site to behold. Yet, is that enough? Can a fancy website and a ton of praise bear out the book’s worth?

Protagonist David is a twelve-year-old boy who has recently lost his mother. If this weren’t enough, his father has remarried and the woman is pregnant. David’s father has moved them all to his new wife’s countryside home where it's safer from the German WWII bombings in London. In this respect, The Book of Lost Things begins as a fairly standard tale.

But David’s new attic bedroom has a shadow that continues to both taunt and entice. The books that have long afforded David an escape no longer captivate him. A Crooked Man seems to be beckoning, and soon David has entered a world of danger and horrors.

It is David’s entry into the world of the Crooked Man that turns The Book of Lost Things from standard to unique. Fused with both Grimm-like fairy stories and Oz-like wonders, where David must rely on his own wits to bridge the gap between child and adulthood, The Book of Lost Things begins to shimmer much like its elegantly designed cover and website.

The Book of Lost Things seems an all-out bildungsroman: David must make the arduous journey to adulthood while maneuvering through a land of sometimes-conflicting characters. His progress on the other side of the journey is marked by maturation and personal growth. And while the characters David meets seem to be pulled straight from a Grimm’s tale, they are also timelier. They are a twisted version of a Grimm tale, a more psychologically charged foil. The dual settings, WWII and the fantasy world David enters, are both dark and evil-filled places. David’s quest will be a difficult one (as are all journeys out childhood’s door) and his respect and understanding of the bookish will be his saving grace.

David’s love of books and his escape into them, both real and analogous, is the underlying theme in The Book of Lost Things. In many ways, the entire story is an ode to books. Author Connolly's own love of tales must be considerable as his familiarity is brimming. In fact, the only real flaw in the writing is the inclusion of so many references that they become somewhat distracting, causing loss of momentum as the reader pauses to reflect on the origins.

The Book of Lost Things begins with a great opening line, "Once upon a time -- for that is how all stories should begin -- there was a boy who lost his mother," but it ends with an unnecessary epilogue. Readers do not need the know the everyday nuances in adult David’s life. It detracts sorely from the magic the rest of the tale holds and muddies the poignancy of David’s quest and triumph.

Read The Book of Lost Things, because it’s a really good tale, but skip the last chapter. The luminous praise, website and cover reflect the magic that lies within its pages.

© 2009

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Stephanie said...

This was one of my favorite reads last year! Great review!!


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