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.
Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.
John Connolly was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1968 and has, at various points in his life, worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a dogsbody at Harrods department store in London. He studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper, to which he continues to contribute.
He is based in Dublin but divides his time between his native city and the United States.
This page is administered by John's assistant, Clair, on John's behalf. If you'd like to communicate with John directly, you can do so by writing to contact-at-johnconnollybooks.com, or by following him on Twitter at @JConnollyBooks.
This is kind of a deceptive book. It seems like it could be young adult in tone at first but it is NOT young adult. It's an adult urban fantasy starring a child. Very cool and immersive, and a bit dark. Hell, a LOT dark sometimes, haha. The lore is very cool, you can tell that the author really loves folklore and all the elements of the world are interesting and believable. Worth checking out if you like magical realism and a lot of bite to your fairy tales.
Part fairy tale and part psychological study, I found this to be an engrossing and powerful book. Recommend to everybody, particularly those who have used reading and books to get themselves through difficult times, especially in childhood.
I don't look at this book the way some readers apparently have: as sci-fi or fantasy, but instead see it as showing the redemptive power of books and stories in children's and adults' lives. And as an account of one boy's inner life and imagination.
I'm not sure which way the author intended it, but it’s a wonderful coming of age story.
Rumpelstiltskin…aka “the Crooked Man” is one seriously scary and diabolical CREEPSTER.
Trust me, after reading this book, the above image of a sadistic, powerful, child-slaughtering MOFO will forever displace your previous perception of old Rumpy being nothing more than a half pint, mischievous prankster with ethical deficiencies…
…a Disney tale this is not. …a light, comforting “happily ever after” children’s story this is not.
However, what this story is….is beautifully written, richly characterized and brilliantly executed. Put simply…it’s wheel barrow full of WONDERFUL.
My feelings for this book surprised me after my intensely passionate, torrid love affair with The Child Thief. I sort of felt bad for this book as I really thought it had no shot of being anything more than a diversionary “get my head back together” rebound novel. I certainly didn’t imagine it had any chance of sweeping me up off my feet and carrying me way into its narrative.
…but it did. The story made me love it despite myself.
Set in England at the outbreak of WWII, young David loves books and stories. We meet David as he is watches his mother slowly die from illness. When she finally succumbs to death, David is devastated (I told you book this wasn’t a bright box of sunshine). Eventually, David’s dad gets remarried to a woman named Rose and the three of them move to Rose’s country home where David’s half brother, Georgie, is soon born.
David is given the room of Rose’s uncle, Jonathan Tulvey, who shared David’s love of books and stories. Jonathan vanished as a young boy and has never been seen since. The books in Jonathan’s room are old and full of ancient stories and many contain odd notes written by Jonathan.
While Rose is nice and tries to form a bond with David, he finds himself increasingly angry at her and his new half-brother. He spends more and more time among the old books which begin to whisper to him and David starts to witness strange occurrences, including the appearance of a “crooked man” watching him.
Eventually David finds himself in another world where dark, grim versions of classic fairy tale characters exist but are nothing like the way they are normally portrayed. The depictions of these characters are outstanding and it often takes a while to identify who they are because they are so stripped of the normal fluffy accoutrements. While, most of the tone is serious and even bleak, there are some great moments of comedy. For example, in one of my favorite scenes, David encounters the Seven Dwarfs who turn out to be communist revolutionaries and political activists straight out of Monty Python’s Holy Grail:
Their relationship with Snow White is anything but pleasant. However, it is very, very funny.
David soon discovers that he must make it to the King of this new world who might have the power to send him back home. However, David’s journey is dark and perilous and he is constantly hunted by the “crooked man” who has his own need of David.
The beginning of the story takes its time to develop, but this leisurely pace didn’t bother because Connolly does an amazing job with it. He keeps us engaged as he introduces us to the characters and slowly allows the fantasy elements to creep and and crawl and bleed into the narrative. This makes the transition from our world into the fantasy world feel authentic and seamless. In addition, the early events of the story turn out to be critical to the central plot and final resolution of the story and so form important threads in the overall tapestry.
As alluded to above, I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel given how emotionally spent I was after reading The Child Thief. It's a credit to how marvelous a job Connolly did with this work that he was able to hold me enthralled to the narrative throughout. The characters are well drawn, with details and shadings to their personalities that make them come alive. I bonded with David very early on making the dangers that he faced all the more gripping. Finally, the plot itself was compelling and page-turningly addictive and Connolly’s prose and descriptive talents were both excellent.
Overall, a sensational book that over came great odds to pleasantly surprise me. If you get the chance to pick this book up...take it.
4.5 stars. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
My reading resolution this year was to read more books out of my comfort zone so when I saw an ARC for The Land of Lost Things (The Book of Lost Things #2) I decided to request it. When my request was approved I immediately downloaded book one and here we are with a four-star review!
This book was such a joy and reminded me why I fell in love with reading as a kid. It started out feeling like a children's book with almost every chapter having a moral at the end but the more I read the more I realized this isn't for the faint of heart or the very young. The writing is very simplistic but poetic at the same time. Sometimes it felt like I was reading a book from the Victorian era and there are a lot of fairytale retellings in these pages. The tales are much closer to the originals in a very dark way. Connolly manages to keep them fresh and make them his own. Every chapter felt like I was reading a new story and the author seamlessly wove them together to make one cohesive plotline.
I loved David as a main character, he had many flaws like losing his temper and being jealous of his little brother but that is normal for a twelve-year-old and I cheered him on during his adventure. I hurt when he was hurt and was happy when he was able to save the day and be the hero. I saw myself in David at times and the imagination that the author must have is awe-inspiring. I loved how the theme of the importance of books and reading shines through the magic and how good always wins over evil. This will delight the older child in all of us and remember...be careful what you wish for.
This is definitely not a young adult book. If you should try, with best intentions, after reading numerous glowing reviews and having heard Connolly's name bandied about the bookish world, to gift this one to a ten-year-old, expect stern words and doubts of judgement. And for pity's sakes, don't give it to any girls, because it's even less friendly to the female person than Grimms' Fairytales. In fact, it does bear a strong resemblance to the writing of the dear Brothers, which is not a been a bad thing if one enjoys the flagrant telling and the elaborate language of fairy tales. That all generally works beautifully here, except that it's oh-so-very dark and misanthropic a tale that I'd reserve it for grown boys who used to be good and are having trouble figuring the path ahead. Which, as you might have guessed, is also not altogether abhorrent. But, let us speak logically, and dissect this. "One bottle was filled almost to the top with eyeballs. They seemed alive to David, as though being wrenched from their sockets had not deprived them of the capacity to see. Another contained a woman's hand, a gold ring upon its wedding finger, red varnish flaking slowly from its nails."
It begins with narrative we can all get behind, a long tradition in English country houses and cracks in the garden walls, and a young man--almost adolescent--embarking on an adventure. Except this adventure is framed by three salient grimnesses; the death of his mother, the father remarried/subsequent baby brother, and World War II. This is the adult world with danger, his perceptions of it seeped in negative emotions of loss, jealousy, fear, and sometimes even boredom. He is being stalked by a Crooked Man, who seems evil, though he cannot say exactly why. The young man, David, journeys through the crack and falls into a land that is fairy-tale twisted. Rescued by a Woodsman, he embarks on a journey to see the king, gain insight from The Book of Lost Things and hopefully return to his own world. As the story progresses, he meets different people and occasionally they will tell him stories that echo fairy tales he has read. "And, in truth, I prefer to hunt children. They make better sport, and better trophies for my wall, for they are beautiful."
A wonderful, traditional format; journey to Oz and to home, but Connolly lets it unwind more than a bit toward the end, as he indulges in descriptions of The Crooked Man's evil deeds, in a way that really doesn't matter to the story, and just serves to point out the horrors of the world. Incest, torture, murder, draining away life; in some ways, I too felt my life drained away by this tale, by the cataloguing of misuse of power, the isolationism of a village, the careless mutilation and torture. Instead of uplifted, I felt ground away, like I had been watching a war montage. Connolly is not celebrating childhood or impending adulthood as much as outlining it as a horrible, dastardly trap where the right choices will mean honor and loss, and the wrong choices mean torture and loss.
And, after all, I have days I feel that way. Where the world has pounded me down. Where humanity seems too full of itself. Where individual kindness feels scarce. Which is why I pick up other books. This is why Catherynne Valente had to write The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and In the Night Garden, which are almost the exact opposite of this book. This book is indeed about Lost Things, the most lostest being childhood itself, except in this version of childhood, what David leaves behind is fantasies of his mother and his first family, not idle days exploring wardrobes, or playing at sword-fighting, or looking for moon-paths. In this book of childhood, the most halcyon of times were pre-war and pre-illness and so distant as to be barely present. "Most of the children David knew had by now left the city, thronging train stations with little brown luggage labels tied to their coats on their way to farms and strange towns. Their absence made the city appear emptier and increased the sense of nervous expectancy that seemed to govern the lives of all who remained. Soon, the bombers would come, and the city was shrouded in darkness at night to make their task harder."
Atmosphere is well done, if dark and grim. Characterization is interesting. David is very real, as layered as one can possibly be at that age, struggling with pride, isolation, independence, and a great deal of loss. Most of the rest of the characters exist as they do in fairy tales, that is to say, as archetypes. There is an off-note encounter with the Seven Dwarves, who have become communists; an anomaly in that they are supposed to be humorous. It's also worth nothing that the Gallant Knight is in love with a man, and while a man of honor, is also a doomed, tragic figure. "David had an opportunity to examine its face as it hovered: it resembled a woman's but was longer and thinner, with a lipless mouth that left its sharp teeth permanently exposed. Now those teeth tore into its prey, ripping great chunks of bloody fur from its body as it fed."
As a final note, to myself and those who follow the humanist footpath: I do not think Connolly loves females overmuch. Because, wow. Aside from the idolized but dead mother, the doomed deer-girl, and a friendly female horse, there is absolutely nothing to love here about females. I'm going to list it here, because I'm not going to ever re-read this book, and someday, someone will ask why: the dead mother.
One of the most beautiful, happiest passages in the book: "Stories were different, though: they came alive in the telling. Without a human voice to read them aloud, or a pair of wide-eyes following them by flashlight beneath a blanket, they had no real existence in our world. They were like seeds in the beak of a bird, waiting to fall to earth, or the notes of a song laid out on a sheet, yearning for an instrument to bring their music into being. They lay dormant, hoping for the chance to emerge. Once someone started to read them, they could begin to change. They could take root in the imagination, and transform the reader."
Absolutely beautiful, and absolutely true. It came alive to me, but not in a pleasant way, more in the way of being lost in a forest and arriving at a town where nobody speaks your language and everyone looks at you askance, and you feel you may not be safe after all, which is why on my own personal scale, it's about an 'okay.' On the technical side, I'd say it's a four star, meaning generally well written, lovely use of language, recognizable themes, consistent story. All that said, it's not a book I'd ever give and would recommend to only a few.
“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”
This turned out to be a lot darker and crueller than I expected it to be. But in a good way. Now, if you consider reading this with or to your children: don't. If I had to set an age limit I would say 13 years, at least. This is some real twisted Coraline shit. Don't mistake it for anything else.
It starts off promising but without any hint where it is going. It could have been a historical novel for all I know. Maybe magical realism. Don't let yourself be fooled, this is prime time fantasy.
The writing captured me right away. It created a magical and fairytale atmosphere and pulled me right in. One thing is for sure, John Connolly can write. A few chapters in, when the main character left reality for the parallel fantasy world, I wasn't sure this magical atmosphere would hold. Suddenly too many things happened at once, the pace increased and new characters were introduced almost every page. Luckily, Connolly managed to keep the atmosphere from crumbling and built an incredible and dark tale, based on many familiar characters and stories from popular fairytales. Just keep in mind that this is anything but Disney. The author stripped the fairytales of most romanticising aspects and went back to the original and often cruel version of the tales. He gave them his own, sombre twist and developed an exciting and often surprising plot.
There are many fairytales out there and many of them include lovely princesses with fancy dresses and beautiful hair. If you are ready to find out what Snow White is really like, or what unspeakable truth lead Red Riding Hood off the path and into the woods, you should make sure to read this book.
P.S.: I'm hoping for Guillermo del Toro to discover this book and adapt it.
Στον μεγάλο και ανείπωτο πόνο,μπροστά στο αναποδραστο, η ψυχή και όλη αυτη η ενεργεια που την περιβαλει,πριν αφανιστεί οριστικά απο θλίψη και σπαραγμό, πριν χαθεί για πάντα στην κοιλάδα των δακρύων,πριν την τελειωτική συντριβή της κανει κατι μαγικά λυτρωτικό: ΑΠΟΔΡΑΣΗ απο το έρεβος του θανάτου και ΑΠΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΩΣΗ μεσα απο ονειρικά φτιαγμένα ΠΑΡΑΜΥΘΙΑ.
Εννοείται πως τα παραμύθια ειναι για παιδικές ψυχές τρυφερές αγνές και μεγαλειώδεις και ίσως όλες οι υπάρξεις πανω στη γη να γινονται ίδιες μπροστά στον μοιραίο πόνο,επομένως σε οποια ψυχή ανακατευτούν όνειρα και παραμύθια δημιουργώντας προστασία και απαντοχή,αυτομάτως αυτη η ψυχή συγκαταλέγεται στις παιδικές...και τα όνειρα που κανει γινονται ο προσωπικός ΠΑΡΑΔΕΙΣΟΣ!
Το βιβλίο των χαμένων πραγμάτων ειναι μεταφορικά και ουσιαστικά η τρομακτικά πραγματική στιγμή της ανθρώπινης υπόστασης που χάνεται σε άλλους κόσμους προκειμένου να σωθεί απο την παράνοια και ταυτόχρονα ωριμάζει και διαχειρίζεται γεγονότα και καταστάσεις με σοφία και λογική!!
Συστήνεται ανεπιφύλακτα στους εραστές των ονείρων και των παραμυθιών,σε όσους παλεύουν να μη χαθούν στην θλίψη της απουσίας,σε αυτούς που πιστεύουν στην δύναμη της θέλησης, της αφοσίωσης,της αγάπης και της ανιδιοτέλειας!! Σε όλες τις αιρετικές ψυχές που έχουν τα εισιτήρια για το ανέφικτο μεσα στο τσεπάκι τους και ειναι ειναι έτοιμοι ανά πάσα στιγμή να μείνουν κόντρα στο κακό ή να φύγουν παρέα με το καλό!!
I stayed up till 1 last night to finish this book.
I REGRET NOTHING.
Recently I've taken quite a fancy to fairy tale re-tellings. You can go right ahead and blame Gail Carson Levine for that. The Book of Lost things belongs to that genre, albeit a bit LOT more darker.
The book begins by introducing us to 12-year old David who has just lost his mum. He finds out that his dad is getting remarried and pretty soon finds himself with a baby brother, whom he hates on sight. Deep in his depression, he begins to hear voices coming out of the books he and his mum used to read together. That is when he first sees the Crooked Man. One late night, David hears his mum's voice calling out to him, asking him to come rescue her from something horrible. He follows her voice to a hole in the garden wall and ends up in fairy tale land with no way of going back (the hole in the wall closes after he passes through).
And that is when things get nasty.
Immediately after arriving, David runs into the Woodsman (The Red-riding hood one) who rescues him from certain death at the hands of a group of half-human, half-wolf mutants. Now, David has to find his way back by searching for the Book of Lost things with the help of the Woodsman and the brave Knight Roland, while escaping the werewolves and the ever-lurking Crooked Man, who follows him everywhere he goes.
Another novel to have been mistakenly classified as a children's story, the Book of Lost Things, is like a roller-coaster ride inside a scary, haunted house filled with your deepest, darkest nightmares involving live, flesh-eating monsters and blood. LOTS of blood.
But, not to worry there is light comic relief in the middle, in the form of Snow-white and seven dwarves. That part is hilarious. DO NOT MISS.
BUT, the rest of the book is seriously creepy, though not more so than the villain of the story, the Crooked Man. To say he is a bad, bad man would be the understatement of the millenium in the entire galaxy. He is fiendish, horrifying, diabolical, wicked, cruel, savage, monstrous, malicious, inhuman, infernal...(Freedictionary.com ran out of synonyms here). SERIOUSLY, YOU GUYS, VOLDEMORT'S GOT NOTHING ON THE CROOKED MAN!!
You've been warned.
P.S - The ending is amazing and wonderful and moving and very coming-of-age-y and I CRIED. So shoo, go read it now!
*Didn't like this book as much but it did motivate me to sketch*
Take all your favourite fairy tales from your childhood(from odd mixture of Wizard of Oz to Labyrinth to The Never Ending Story to the most sadistic part of Grimm's Fairy Tales), now throw in some well known poems and mix together with a story of a child coming to terms with the death of a parent. And you've pretty much got this. But did it work?
This books is rather dichotomous. There were some really wonderful bits, and there were parts that were just poorly executed. But my biggest grouch was with the predictable and stiff writing.
I almost laughed aloud when I read sentences along the lines of: 'And that was when David truly transitioned from boyhood to manhood.' Whatever happened to the old-fashioned ‘show, don't tell’ rule of writing? Overall it was an Okay and forgettable read.
NOTICE (Please read this first): I'm happy to discuss my opinion of this book with you if you had a different take, but if your intent is merely to attack my opinion, I'm not interested.
Since I posted this way back in 2008, a (very) small minority of this book's fans have taken my review personally and have written some very long, very insulting responses telling me why I'm wrong. So please allow me to clarify something -
This is my opinion of the book. It will undoubtedly differ from yours because we are not the same person. You are welcome to refute me by giving the book a much higher rating and more glowing review ... on your own account. You are also welcome to tell me you disagree below, but if you can't do it in a less-than-essay-long format, I will delete your comment. If you need to get nasty and personal with your remarks, I'll probably be reporting and blocking you as well.
Connolly's "Book of Lost Things" came highly recommended as a modern take on the fantasy genre. What I found instead was a completely unlikeable main character, an array of interchangeable father figures, and a disappointing rehash of the usual fairy tale parodies.
"Lost Things" centers on David, a boy whose mother dies and whose father remarries and has a second child, leaving David to bicker bitterly with his new stepmother while trying to avoid anxiety attacks that leave him blacked out and feverish. And that groundwork occurs in one of the most poorly paced info-dumps I've had the misfortune to read. The first chapter focuses on David and his mother, leading you to believe this will be the crux of the story - but alas, she dies. The second chapter focuses on the father's remarriage and David's anxiety attacks leading the reader to believe, perhaps, this is the focus of the story - it is not. The third and fourth chapters center on David's mostly absent father whose work is "top secret" and David's fights with his step-mother and we, the audience, raise our index fingers and say, "Ah-ha! Top secret Dad! Conflict with the new parental figure! This, surely, is the story!" But, alas, those are red-herrings as well. In fact, after the sixth chapter, neither of those characters appears again until the (two chapters long!) epilogue.
The real story ends up being David's abduction into the land of fairy tales by the Crooked Man, a Rumpelstiltskin who makes vicious bargains with emotional children to feed his magical slave house. David starts off his true adventure by following the voice of his dead mother - but don't assume that the story somehow involves David's mother's spirit wandering painfully in the fantasy realm awaiting rescue, this too, in Connolly fashion, is completely irrelevant to the story. Instead, David wanders the fantasy realm accompanied by a series of nearly identical substitute fathers who end up betraying David's trust in one way or another - by being gay in one case (Roland), by being fallible in another (the generic Woodsman).
In the end, David finds another potential father figure in Jonathon, and quickly realizes that not only is Jonathon a liar and a murderer, but also that he, David, no longer needs a father figure because he's now become a man of his own right. He then stares down Jonathon, the Crooked Man, and the vicious wolf monsters, who until that point only appeared in the story when Connolly felt the need to remind us that David was in danger because wolf monsters were chasing him; they never catch up to him except at the end and, as I said, David simply stares them down and wins by virtue of his newfound manhood.
In all, "Lost Things" is a plodding, thinly veiled paean to a baby-boomer-era view of "manhood" as stoic resolution and resistance to all hurts, including mental and emotional. Perhaps this story plays better, and I don't wish to be insulting, with a female audience, one that's never had to grapple with questions of "manliness" or had to decide on an appropriate level of attachment to an older male. As for me, I was insulted that David begins the story emotionally wounded by what he views as a betrayal by his father and, instead of finding closure, he learns to just get over it and "be a man" about it.
But a bigger insult, in my eyes, was the closing of the book - Connolly is so in love with his work that he follows up the main story with almost 150 pages of notes and commentary on his story: everything from the origins of the fairy tales he parodies to his woeful recollections of scenes that were cut from the final draft (murder your darlings, Connolly!). It's as jarring as it would be had Stephen King ended Christine with detailed descriptions of a Plymouth Belvedere and ten pages of him crying about the Arnie/Christine tailpipe sex scene that his editors excised from the final publication.
This was my first experience with Connolly, and as it's his most highly recommended book, I'll probably pass on his work in the future.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Fugue state, formally Dissociative Fugue... usually involves unplanned travel or wandering, and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity. Fugues are usually precipitated by a stressful episode.
in world war 2-era england, young David loses his mother after a lingering illness and begins to experience strange dissociative episodes, often involving the sounds of books whispering to him and usually ending with him falling into unconsciousness. soon enough, his father finds a new wife named Rose - a nurse at his mother's hospice - and David finds himself with a stepmother and an infant half-brother. David is deeply unhappy with this development. after the new family moves out of london to Rose's country home in order to escape german bombers, David realizes a shadowy, crooked figure has sinister designs on him and his brother. one night, after a particularly bad argument with his folks, David hears his mother's voice calling him. following that voice, he crawls into a hole within a sunken garden - just as a german bomber also falls from the sky and crashes into that garden. he emerges into a sinister fantasyland. his quest: Find and Rescue His Mother. his nemesis: The Crooked Man.
John Connolly is best known as a respected writer of an excellent detective series. his strengths have been widely reported: gorgeously dark and lush descriptive skills, a sensitive portrayal of private eye Charlie Parker - an unusually tormented protagonist (tragic even for a genre noted for its sad, sad heroes), and a unsettling ability to mix the prosaic with the supernatural to startling effect. in this book, Connolly takes each of those gifts and streamlines them in a way that is appropriate for the reader of young adult or even children's literature - although this novel is very clearly an Adult Fairy Tale. the result is pleasingly distinctive. there are many scenes that are striking in their psychosocial nuance, their foreboding atmosphere, their ability to evoke that wonderfully shivery feeling of fearful anticipation. my favorite passage happens early on: David's daunting entry into the strange fantasy world... an eerie vignette that is a model of careful, suspenseful writing, featuring unearthly quiet, child-like flowers, a a taciturn Woodsman, the smoking remains of the german bomber, bleeding trees, a house in the woods with a Giger-like exterior, and a gathering of evil wolfish beings.
Dionysian imitatio, a literary method of imitation conceived as the practice of emulating, adaptating, reworking and enriching a source text by an earlier author.
Book of Lost Things is a book of mythopoeic templates - revisited, revised, regurgitated, remixed, and reimagined. we have an entire company of Big Bad Wolves, reconfigured as ambitious wolf-men, born of a grotesquely slutty Little Red Hood and sprung from the nightmares of a juvenile king... a perhaps not-so-Wicked Stepmother... a malevolent and terrifying Sleeping Beauty... Childe Roland, transformed as a brave gay soldier in search of his long-lost lover... trolls and harpies and a savage, hungry Beast... a young girl's spirit in a glass jar... and our villain, a gleeful child-thief, a striker of dark bargains, a Rumpelstiltskin, an old old devil: The Crooked Man.
the use of revisionism is, sadly, not always successful. a comic interlude with the socialist Seven Dwarves and an obese, monstrous Snow White is depressingly unfunny and a little desperate (at least to this reader). and a long part near the end, depicting various torture chambers and examples of The Crooked Man's terrible villainy seems to be merely an excuse for Connolly to indulge himself with a gloatingly vicious array of sadistic tableau. both sequences were eye-rolling and sigh-inducing.
but those are aberrations; despite them, Connolly more than succeeds in creating delightful and intriguing reinterprations of figures from fairy and folk tale. even better, David's character is a slow-burning but dynamic one, changing in bits and starts from boy to man with each new encounter. he is a realistically flawed protagonist as well as a brave and endearing little hero.
Memento mori, a Latin phrase translated as "Remember your mortality", "Remember you must die" or "Remember you will die"... it names a genre of artistic work which varies widely, but which all share the same purpose: to remind people of their own mortality.
the novel's extended endings were a brilliant surprise. to avoid spoilers, i'll just say that i was entirely taken aback by the meaning of The Book of Lost Things itself. and - even more memorably, more intensely - the closing pages' no-nonsense illustration of the potential and/or inherent tragedy of human life in general... and the idea of that tragedy - no matter how intimate - somehow not really being that tragic at all - just simply a part of the greater cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
i hate to end a review with a tv show reference... but if you have ever seen the last 10 minutes or so of Six Feet Under's final episode - a wondrously sad, wistful, yet somehow uplifting experience - you will know exactly what i mean. the ending of this rather fantastic book is equally moving.
John Connolly’s 2006 revisionist fantasy will draw many comparisons due to it’s fable / mythical themes. Most notably will be a comparison to CS Lewis’ Narnia books since this is set in England during WWII and our young protagonist finds his way into an alternate world. It’s alternate fairy tales will also draw comparison to both Gregory Maguire and L. Frank Baum. The urban fantasy parts made me also think of Charles de Lint’s fine work.
Because of the youthful hero and the fable like tone, some readers may call it YA, but I would amend to highlight young ADULT. This is most definitely NOT a juvenile book because of it’s subject matter. No doubt, many of Grimm’s fairy tales were darker than the colorful musicals that Disney has twisted them into, but Connolly drives on past dark into grisly and sometimes disturbing. His creation of the character of The Crooked Man was truly inspired.
Because of the subjects of loss, abandonment and adopted relationships, this also made me think of A Monster Calls, though this lacked the emotional tug of that great book. Connolly succeeds in creating a psychological examination of a young mind under stress and dealing with some heavy issues while also telling a pretty good fantasy story.
World War II is on, and 12-year old David is mourning the loss of his mother and moving to the home of his father's new wife and their baby son; and all he chooses to have for company is a book collection that has been left in his new room. Yay for books!
In a very Narnia-esque way, David find himself in another dimension, a lot less like Narnia and more like Grimm Fairy Tales meets HBO! An ambiguous modern fairy tale saga which doesn't hold back on the killing, dying and murdering. A merging of Children's story and dark fantasy which made quite an interesting mix. 7.5 out of 12.
This deceptively simple dark fantasy fairy tale will appeal directly to readers of The Chronicles of Narnia,The Golden Compass and Coraline. It's a story that has a lot more going for it than the surface level of the writing suggests.
What makes The Book of Lost Things so special is the way in which in interacts and adapts a multitude of fairy tales from various sources and blends them all into one big adventure. There’s a lot of ideas here and it’s all brought together in a warped world as a young boy (David) attempts to navigate his way home. The world he has found himself in is an amalgamation of stories and characters and his own dreams. This idea works fantastically well and it’s something a lot of readers will really appreciate. Who doesn't want to ditch reality and escape into a fantasy world?
So central to the novel is the importance of reading and the strong sense of escapism books can bring us. Whilst David, essentially, gets lost in his own world of books and ideas, it’s the act of reading that helped him come to terms with the loss of his mother. His adventure, enacted through stories and the characters he has read about, becomes a means for him to grow as a person and to learn about decency. Fairy tales are often moralistic, and David’s tale is no different.
It’s worth mentioning just how dark this book is. For the first part of the story, it appears to be very much a book for children. Moreover, it’s marketed and published as one too, which I find a little odd considering just how disturbing some of the sections are. There are often creepy undertones to fairy tales, but here it is much more blatant. There are brutal death scenes and there are graphic descriptions of surgery and creating human-animal hybrids by sowing corpses together. It’s dark and creepy. This isn’t by any means a criticism of mine, but just a warning for those who think this is a children’s book: it’s not one.
Now back to the importance of reading. I’ve always found books that cement a love of literature within their own stories to be quite special. I guess it’s a case of knowing your audience and writing to them, letting them know exactly how significant books can be in our lives. There’s a lot to be said here and in some ways this book is deceptively simple. It follows a basic quest like narrative, hopping from story to story, after some initial set-up in the real world, but what it’s actually doing is a bit more complex: it weaves together unconnected fairy tales to establish the transformative power of books. And I loved it. It’s such a clever device and the delivery was excellent.
So I really recommend this one to those who enjoy fantasy and to those that appreciate the escapism that books can bring.
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“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”
John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things is a tale that reflects everyone’s story of growing up. Some would say that it’s a story of losing one’s innocence, but are we ever really innocent? Through time we have come to develop feelings of grief, rage, hatred, and jealousy. These are some of the things that eat the pure off of us. At some point, we have all become the things we feared the most. We have turned into our very own monsters, destroying the good that is ahead of us. This is the story of how David overcame his monsters.
As a young boy, David lost his mother, and his only means of coping up with his grief was reading, an interest he got from her. The books started whispering to him and only he could hear them. Months after his beloved mother’s death, his father remarried. Rose, his father’s new love got pregnant with Georgie, David’s new half-brother. As a part of starting a new life with his step-mother and half-brother, David and his father moved out of their London home and into Rose’s which was located out of the city. There, in the old house, he was given a room that was used to be of a boy named Jonathan Tulvey. It was filled with old books that David tried to read for himself although some he could not understand thoroughly.
In his dreams and around the house, David began seeing a figure of a man with distinct, odd features. Drawing closer and closer to him, waiting in the shadows, was the Crooked Man.
I borrowed a copy of this from my cousin and it had been sitting on my shelf for months. At first, I was not too thrilled to start reading it due to the synopsis at the back of the book. It was not very attractive to me. I decided to read it just so I could return it to her sooner. I was so wrong to judge this book by the few words written on its back cover. I was not expecting it to fascinate me, to touch my heart, and to show me what it means to live and to be alive, but it did. It was an extraordinary experience that was beyond my anticipation for it. The synopsis didn’t do it justice. It was a dark, strange, tragic, and bloody adventure that every child in us would fear, but the adult in us would come to understand the truth beneath its surface. In it are very familiar tales that were distorted to suit the book’s eeriness, constructing a twisted realm parallel to David’s reality.
David was a child at the beginning of the story, and you could really visualize how his character developed. He became more mature as he learned to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. In time, he also became more selfless, learning that love could cause a terrible ache, and living, sometimes, could hurt. His journey in the world beyond the sunken garden emblematized a lot of things that he was battling in his heart. They were struggles he had to face to help him cope with the pain of losing his mother and adjust to his new life.
The world that the author wrote into being was quite disturbing. It was stripped off of peace, innocence, and hope. In every corner of it lurked danger that a child like David, realistically, might not be able to endure. I don’t even think adults could come out alive of the situations David found himself in. There were beasts, creatures that could kill or mangle you. There was also a bit of sexual content implied in it that I was not expecting. It was not graphic, but it would be perturbing if a very young child would mistaken this as a children’s book and read it. He could either be very curious to try those things out or be afraid of them.
A hundred pages on the origin stories and source materials were included in the latter part of the book, explaining further how each distorted tale woven into The Book of Lost Things represented something significant in David’s life. It gave me a clearer insight of what David was going through, reminding me more that, somehow, I have been there too. It was quite amusing to reread those fairytales and to read some of them for the first time. They felt familiar but at the same time strange because after all these years of not reading them and then revisiting them now, it seemed to me that they were telling a different story that exhibited deeper reason than how I perceived them when I was just a child. There were also explanations on how each of the characters represented an archetype or a persona that contributed greatly not only to the development of this story, but also to those that inspired it.
This is a really cleverly-written adventure and I highly recommend it. I hope you guys would give it a try. Surely, I will be reading more books written by this author in the future.
4 stars to John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things. I added this to my "To Read" list sometime in 2015 as it reminded me a little bit of the "Once Upon a Time" TV series which I love. And it didn't disappoint!
Story A young adult novel focusing on a young boy's quest to fit in his earthly world and survive in his fantasy world in 1940's England. Young David (around 10) has suffered a lot as a boy. His mother dies early, his father remarries quickly. He is shy and doesn't venture much out of his room. When he's forced to accept his new stepmother and then his young half-brother, David mysteriously disappears into his books through a realm in secret sunken garden where he's immediately thrown into fairy tale land. He must find a way out but quickly learns the fairy tales all have a dark side in this universe, and he's not the first to be transported to the new world from his old world. He's faced with the be-all, end-all question of selfish vs. selfless behavior. What will he choose and what are the impacts?
Strengths 1. John Connolly has a vivid imagination with brilliant characters and creates a fun re-appropriation of beloved fairy tales. 2. You see a lot of yourself in David and know what he's doing wrong all the time -- makes you realize the commonality among all of us.
Weaknesses 1. Not enough of the fairy tales are included to truly feel like you've shown us the full picture of this world. We need more! 2. I don't know enough about David's family and real world experiences to understand how/why he was chosen to enter the new world - so I'm a bit doubtful of the premise and how children are chosen by the Crooked Man.
Final Thoughts It's still a great read. I think it's appropriate for pre-teens across the curriculum. It will speak volumes to different types of kids -- those who love to read, those who have problems at home, those who just love fantasy, those who like history... need to compare novels like this to others in its genre to provoke true literary analytics, e.g. this vs. "Harry Potter," this vs. "Life as We Knew It" and this vs. "Chronicles of Narnia." I think it's a great "survival of the fittest" read to help young adults learn how to mature.
About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world! And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Thanks for stopping by!
Held within this book are not the fairy tales I heard as a child. They surely would have messed me up if I had. Connolly creates something wholly fresh by weaving a new fantasy with old tales placed in the mix – with a twist that is twisted mind you. It is the story of David lost in another land, and his journey to find a way home.
4 stars for scaring the child in me…for making me wonder, cringe and also laugh as an adult reader…for the adventure of it, and the heartfelt story inside all of this. Pretty much loved reading this story, and the lesson for us humans that it represented.
I guess, I didn't write a review of this the first time I read it. The Book of Lost Things is a dark fantasy and a coming-of-age tale about a boy who has lost his mother to cancer. He is feeling even worse after her death, because his father falls in love and marries a new woman quite soon after and has a baby boy. He is feeling unloved and unwanted and begins to hear and see things that others can't that are coming from the books in his room.
When jealousy and rage start to coalesce, he turns away from his world to a fantasy world that he discovers on his step-mother's property. This magic world is not full of sweetness and light. Malevolent forces are at work for his soul and his baby brother's life.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.” ― John Connolly,
I love the cover of this book, isn't it so gorgeous ??
This book is my favorite book of all time. I love getting back to it every once in a while and reread few passages, i feel it pulling me back in, tempting me to dive in its beautiful world of adventures once again. so finally i decided to post my thoughts about it.
One thing you should know about me, is that I LOVE fairy-tales, especially the ones that contain a dark twist. and oh my .. this book gave me everything.
World Building :The world that the author created was absolutely mesmerizing, the world building was impeccable and so well thought of, the writing style is easy to get lost into, I actually felt like i was there, you could feel the magic around you, the air of that forest, and the howling of the wolves, it was detailed enough that you can see the place clearly but not too much that it became boring. ( using too much details can ruin the book for me )
This is not a young adult book like I expected. it was very dark, and some parts are just so twisted but very well written. the pacing of the story was also good, it took me a few pages to get into it, especially at first, but once i did, it was impossible not to continue and not want more, so i would say that this is definitely a page turner.
The characters : I loved all the characters in this book, they seemed so real. and i absolutely ADORED David, all his flaws made him more relatable and more human, in this story I believe we follow him in a journey of finding himself rather than finding his mother .
The crooked man what a clever idea ! i guess this story is about him in a way, he is the weaver of the events and the world of the story, he's the mastermind .
I didn't have any problem or inconvenience regarding this book, everything is so well done and brilliant, which made the experience of reading this book so vivid. i also enjoyed the dark fairy-tales included in this book, it's something different, in a good way of course.
The ending of this book tore me to pieces, it's the most perfectly written ending that i have ever encountered in a book. i cried so much. it is the kind of book that stays in your head even after you finish it.
I would recommend it to everyone, because i feel like it's something that must be read at least once in our lives.
John , THANK you for this masterpiece, i can't imagine not reading this book as it's such a big part of my life
I absolutely LOVED this story! Using the darkest parts of our imagination, John Connolly fractured fairytales into humorous, suspenseful and, at times, very disturbing ways. Extremely vivid vocabulary described characters and settings - so much so that I felt like I was on the same journey with David. Speaking of the main character, I felt a strong relatable affinity for him. I really enjoyed the ending's surprising twists - didn't see them coming! The last chapter (which may have been cheesy to some readers, but I don't care) was so satisfyingly bittersweet that it made me cry. Whenever I had to put this book down, I would savour what I had read so far before picking it up again. Even if fantasy is not your bag, I'm sure you WILL enjoy this one!
I am as surprised as anyone about my rating - I genuinely thought I would adore this book. So much in fact that I kept putting off reading it to ensure I'd get the most of it. On the surface, this book is perfect for me as it combines many of my favourite things: fairy tales, hidden worlds, adult books with children as the lenses through which to see these hidden worlds, re-tellings, a sibling relationship that feels real, imaginative world building and and and.
Don't get me wrong, this book was perfectly alright; it is very readable and well-plotted. The characters and their relationships make sense, the world created is interesting, and the fairy tales are well integrated. I am still dissappointed because it could have been SO much better.
We follow David who is mourning his mother and feels betrayed that his father has found a new wife and had a child with her. He starts having seizures and seeing and hearing strange things until he finds himself in a new world - a world so very strange but still familiar, one where he has to fear for his life and will have to be braver than he has ever been.
See, that sounds just like my type of book. Maybe my expecation just were too high and I was hoping for it to be more like "Pan's Labyrinth" - one of my all-time favourite movies. I thought the atmosphere could have been developed better to more work with the world detailed. I found the language to be too simplistic or not simplistic enough, I am not sure - if you are going to use different fairy tales to weave your tapestry your language needs to mirror those very closely or not at all. I reckon I caught most allusions to different fairy tales - I did grow up reading fairy tales, again and again and again - and this might actually have been one of my problems. The world felt very familiar to me and as such never completely original (I know that originality wasn't the point, I still think it could have been fresher).
So yeah, kind of dissappointed but still a very readable book.
First sentence: Once upon a time - for that is how all stories should begin - there was a boy who lost his mother.
"I think the act of reading imbues the reader with a sensitivity toward the outside world that people who don't read can sometimes lack. I know it seems like a contradiction in terms; after all reading is such a solitary, internalizing act that it appears to represent a disengagement from day-to-day life. But reading, and particularly the reading of fiction, encourages us to view the world in new and challenging ways...It allows us to inhabit the consciousness of another which is a precursor to empathy, and empathy is, for me, one of the marks of a decent human being."
What the author states in an interview on The Book Of Lost Things sums up my entire take on literature. He is right, and his novel grows with the knowledge of his intentions. That is not always the case, and sometimes authors' sales pitches and literary critics' snotty analyses can even ruin stories completely.
Not in this case!
A hybrid between coming of age in difficult times and pure fantasy delight, full of fractured fairytales and real problems to be dealt with, this is a perfect example of young adult fiction for all ages. There is a Crooked Man. THE Crooked Man. There is a jealous, angry young boy with a mind full of stories he has read. There is a nightmare and a dream and a reality beyond the factual world.
There is a disgusting Snow White and seven suffering dwarfs in a comedy side show - a break entertainment of sorts. There is a Beast and and a Not-A-Beauty. There are knights and woodsmen and families that wait. There is David. His imagination makes it all come together - to celebrate storytelling in its most vivid form. He is like the siblings in Narnia, or like Bastian Balthasar Bux in The Neverending Story - a child immersed in fiction, growing ready to face the real world by dealing with literary adventures.
A great class novel for Middle School! And a good read for anyone who still loves childhood fairytales.
Coming off from reading Lord of The Flies, I can definitely see some underlining similarities in both of them in the sense that both authors chose to use children to get their points across in a dark deeply disturbing way. Both backgrounds were hostile and unnerving and some imagery will stay with me for a while.
“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”
The book follows David a young boy who is trying to cope with a family tragedy by diving into stories and escaping in them but soon he is thrown into this dark version of familiar fairy tales and as he tries to find a way back to his world he comes across challenges that will redefine his belief in happily ever after
As always I had fun reading this book and discussing it with The Eclectic Club I expected a light-hearted story with a fun little adventure but instead, I got something deliciously dark. The twist on the normal fairy tales was an edgy and disturbing and I f*cking loved it.
The writing paired well with the pacing of the plot and each chapter felt like its own adventure which made the book unputdownable.