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Book Review: The Book of Lost Things

September 22, 2008 Leave a comment

The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly; Fiction

For a while, I’ve been in a sort of reading dry-spell…many of the books that I’ve read were either likable but unmemorable, or just disappointing. I was starting to feel like I was just being cynical, and looking for things not to like in every book I picked up. But then I read The Book of Lost Things.

From Barnes & Noble: 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.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly is my favorite book that I’ve read so far this year. This is really a book lovers book, and as a book lover myself, I felt that it’s strongest theme was the influence that reading, books, and stories in general can have on your life. As a lifelong avid reader, I’d like to think that the books that I’ve read have shaped how I look at the world. David’s imagination, the world he falls into, and his outlook on things were heavily shaped by the stories he read.

Most, if not all, of the characters that David meets are largely influenced by fairy tales. Some of the influences are more direct and recognizable. In one of the most humorous moments, we meet Snow White, who is nothing like the charming Disney princess, but instead ravenously hungry, unbelievably overweight, bossy, and irritating. Her dwarfs, who call each other “comrade” are actually the ones behind the apple poisoning incident, and talk of “rights and liberties”. There were several characters whose influences were a bit ambiguous to me. In particular, one storyline seemed almost identical to the plot of the movie Penelope, and I was surprised to read in the author’s notes that it was actually based on Beauty and the Beast.

About the author’s notes: I was surprised to find that the last 100 pages or so were the author’s notes about the fairy tales referenced in the novel, as well as the original versions of those stories. It was very interesting to read about the author’s influences and why he made certain choices with his interpretations. I wish more novels would include notes like that, because I found them really interesting to read.

From reading other reader reviews, it seems like this is either a book you love or you hate. I personally loved it. It was very poetic at times, dark and gruesome in the right places, just as traditional fairy tales are. It wasn’t overly preachy with its ideas, which I appreciated. This is a bit of a stretch, but it reminded me a bit of Big Fish, so if you enjoyed the film or book, you might like this one, too.