The Book of Lost Things is a difficult story to categorise, but I suppose it's essentially an adult fairy tale. It's written in a straightforward, easThe Book of Lost Things is a difficult story to categorise, but I suppose it's essentially an adult fairy tale. It's written in a straightforward, easy-reading manner - sometimes feeling like it's pitched at a teenage audience - but the subject matter is much darker and suggests that Connolly had adults or mature adolescents in mind when he penned this work.
The story follows David, a young boy struggling to cope with the slow death of his mother. Jealous and in pain, he reacts against his father's new relationship with a woman named Rose, and expresses his feelings of hate about the half-brother born to the person he sees as a threat to his relationship with his father. Taking the reader through his feelings of adolescent aggression, grief, loneliness and rejection, he increasingly begins to regress into a fantasy world of books to escape the real world. Then one day, the young boy stumbles fully into a different land, brought there by the mysterious Crooked Man whose motives are initially not clear, but from the beginning have the undercurrent of an ugly and sinister plot.
Following David's quest through this alternate world, the book confronts many dark issues aside from the grief of his mother's death and rejection of his new family. It looks at his loneliness as he travels through a strange world, cut off from everything he knows and occasionally reaching the depths of despair; it confronts the fragility of life and how easily it can be taken away, with the story set to the backdrop of World War II in the real world, alongside the other world where torture, pain and murder are commonplace and graphic; and it looks at fear and nightmares, and how we cope and react to them in different ways as we mature.
Aside from the darker issues of death and despair, the book delves into adult relationships. Loyalty is a key theme, as David makes allies and forms bonds with those he meets in this strange new world. He comes to rely on others, although is never quite able to trust many of the characters he meets, and soon learns of betrayal. As well as platonic love and loyalty, Connolly looks at sexual relationships. David struggles to grow and comprehend relationships he doesn't initially understand, when he meets a soldier on a quest to find his male lover, and later is confronted with discovering what the love between his father and stepmother means behind closed doors.
The book's a real page-turner. It effortlessly mixes an incredibly easy read, almost childlike in places, with a dark and adult subject matter. With references to both reality and fantasy throughout, it is - as the inside cover says - 'a book for every adult who can recall the moment when childhood began to fade, and for every child about to face that moment.' A thrilling read, which I can do nothing other than very highly recommend.