Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Book of Lost Things

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I posted a quote by John Connolly, author of The Book of Lost Things, and at that moment decided to read the book as well. Often, it's small, seemingly random things that ignite my interest in a book--hearing the author interviewed on NPR, being captivated by a title, reading a few remarks about a book, or catching a few words by an author--and I enjoy being led to books in this way. In this case, I'd read a quote by the author, found the title to be intriguing, and wondered what I'd find inside this book. Somewhat impulsively, I ordered the book online without researching it first. When it arrived, I set it aside, thinking it was a children's book, although I've revised that notion since reading it. I cannot imagine children reading this novel. It is far too dark and violent for children, especially young children, although it might be suitable for older teenagers. Beyond the darkness, though, is what drew me into this book and most held my interest; this novel which pays homage to the great powers of stories and books, waiting to come alive and nourish our imaginations and lives.

" And David could tell, by looking at her face as she read, whether or not the story contained in the book was living inside her, and she in it, and he would recall again all that she had told him about stories and the power that they wield over us, and that we in turn wield over them."
~The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly

Published in 2006, The Book of Lost Things is the story of David, a boy of 12 who perhaps above all else shares a great love of reading and books with his mother, who is seriously ill. He hopes to keep her alive by strictly following a series of rituals. David does things in a certain way repeatedly, as children are prone to do, because they believe they can influence the outcome of important events in this way. (I remember doing the same thing as a child at times. When I wanted to "influence" the outcome of an important school test, for example, I would pour milk into a glass up until a certain level, or take a set number of steps. I believed these arbitrary, unrelated things could have an effect.)

Sadly, David's mother succumbs to cancer, and to make matters even worse, his father remarries. Soon David's father and stepmother, Rose, have a baby, Georgie, who David resents as much as he resents Rose, and the family moves to Rose's huge country house outside of London. David, heartbroken and mourning the loss of his mother, retreats to his bedroom, a room brimming with books that once belonged to Rose's great-uncle (who disappeared without a trace when he was 12). The edges of reality blur and David begins to hear the books whispering and talking to him, and appearing in his dreams. David sees a sinister figure, the Crooked Man, although his father tells him it 's only a magpie. One night, David hears his mother call him from the world of the Crooked Man. He feels she is still alive, and rushes out into the sunken garden to rescue her. Set in England during World War II, David barely escapes the wreckage of a fallen German bomber, and is transported into a fantasy world where he meets the Woodsman, who tries to help David return home. The pair are repeatedly confronted by vicious, snarling creatures--wolves, loups (half-human wolves), harpies, trolls, and others--as well as the Crooked Man. After many attempts to return to his world back through the tree portal, David, with the aid of the Woodsman, decides to seek out the king and his book of lost things.

To be honest, I had a difficult time choosing what to say about this book. While reading this book, I left the safety of my comfort zone behind. I do not gravitate towards books with grisly violence in them, and do not read a great deal of either genre, fantasy or crime fiction. That being said, though, I immersed myself in this spellbinding world, and was held captive by the story up until the very last page.


  1. The Book of Lost Things has been vaguely on my radar for a while, but you've got my attention fully on it now! I will definitely be picking up a copy.

  2. I'm always interested to read your thoughts about books. I can count on you to be honest, real and not give too much away. Thanks for sharing a part of yourself when you review books. For this particular book, I think I may just prefer to read your words and will likely pass on reading the book.

  3. Kate, I do think this is your kind of book.

    Christie, I don't think this is your kind of book.

  4. Wow, thanks for such a great review. I get intrigued by books that make me step outside my comfort zone in reading.

    Great stuff Suko!

  5. The story sounds interesting, I'm also intrigued!


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