Tag Archives: The Book of Lost Things

Tara’s CBRIII Review #49: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Cannonball Read III: Book #49/52
Published: 2006
Pages: 352 (189,449 total pages so far)
Genre: Fantasy

I actually read this book back in July, but was going over my list of books for Cannonball Read and realized that I never reviewed this one! This review might be short and/or vague since it’s been six months or so since I actually read it.

The Book of Lost Things is sort an adult fairy tale. I love fantasy books and movies, so I found it to be pretty interesting. Twelve-year-old David is having a hard time with his father remarrying after the death of his mother, so he turns to books. The books whisper to him and eventually lead him to a secret passageway into a fantasy land complete with princes and kings and big bad wolves.

This was definitely more of a dark fairy tale — not really for kids. If you prefer Grimm’s version over the Disney version of fairy tales, you’d probably enjoy this book. Plus, if you were ever that kid who used books as an escape, David will really resonate with you and take you back to a time when books really came alive.

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genericwhitegirl’s CBR Book #29: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Fairy tales are everywhere. I just got back from Disneyworld where Cinderella Castle stands prominently at center stage. And of course there’s the classic Disney ride, Snow White’s Scary Adventures (although I heard the Magic Kingdom in Florida is axing Snow White in a year or two. How sad.).

There is also a more modern emergence of fairly tales on network TV. Shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time peaked my interest, until I started watching them.

So it makes sense that I turned my attention to a different, and more traditional genre for my fairy tale fix, books. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly was written in 2006 and is a departure for the author, who normally writes thriller novels. I’ve read mixed reviews about his experiment and must say, I agree to some extent with everyone.

Our story takes place during WWII in London. David’s mother has died. His father remarries a woman named Rose, and the three move into Rose’s family home. Soon after, Rose gives birth to a son. As David feels more and more isolated and forgotten, his grip on reality slowly slips. He suffers seizures, hears books whispering to him, and begins seeing The Crooked Man. One night, he hears his mother calling to him, and David follows her voice to a sunken garden. As the war rages around him, a German bomber plane goes down, heading for the garden. David hides in a crack in the garden, where is he transported to another world.

In this new world, David begins a quest to find the king, whose Book of Lost Things may hold the key to David’s return home. Along the way, David quickly learns he is in a land where fairy tales are real. But unlike the the sanitized versions Disney would offer, Connolly’s version of our favorite stories is more along the lines of the inspiration followed by the Brother’s Grimm. The stories Connolly tells through David’s adventures deal with issues like bestiality, homosexuality, and murder for sport, to name a few. And they involve familiar characters like Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, and some new ones as well.

So why the mixed reviews? My biggest issue with the book is that there is something in the way Connolly writes that makes The Book of Lost Things seem like a young adult book. Maybe it’s his writing style. Maybe it’s the fact that the main character is a twelve year old boy…I can’t really place my finger on it. But the stories Connolly tells are more suited for an adult audience. There is overt sexuality and violence that wouldn’t have shocked me as much, had I not felt like the book was a YA novel. I was confused by the two voices which clashed, rather than blended.

With that said, it’s a damn interesting book. A little slow in the beginning, but a great fantasy novel. And I’m a sucker for good endings. I can forgive a lot in a book if the ending is satisfying, and this one delivered for me.

So if you like fairy tales, fantasy stories, and a bit of the macabre, it’s a recommend. Oooh, and while we’re on the subject…despite Disney’s abandonment of her, Snow White lives on in theaters next year. I can’t wait to see the two versions coming out! Click here for the trailer of Snow White and the Huntsman with Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, and Chris Hemsworth. And the trailer for the campier looking Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts is here.

Read The Blist for more reviews by genericwhitegirl.

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Akhirnya’s CBR III #28 The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (339p.)

For an alternative (and more positive review) see Heathpie’s review.

The Book of Lost Things is a quirky fantasy novel concerning David, a young boy growing up in England during World War II.  His mother has just passed away from an illness and, much to his dismay, his father begins a relationship with another woman.  The speed of the new marriage is encouraged along by a pregnancy, followed shortly thereafter by the birth of David’s infant half-brother.

David consoles himself with his imagination.  He was taught by his mother of ‘old stories’ and the power they have.  In his new room in his step mother’s villa, he finds many mysterious old books that belonged her great-uncle, who disappeared as a child along with an adopted sister.  David isolates himself by the rest of the family, doing his best to drive the step-mother away, in the hopes that his father will give this new family up.

As a bomber plane crash-lands in his garden, David is drawn to the crash site by the sound of his mother’s voice.  Crawling through a tree, he finds himself in an alternate universe, where magic and fairytales appear to be true.  He embarks upon a quest to find his mother and get back home, so they can be a complete family again.

Connolly combs through Grimm’s Fairy Tales, cherry picking different stories for his own unique treatment, though they do remain very grim indeed.  You’ll find everything from bestiality to cannibalism, with a dash of class consciousness for good measure.  Likely because David is working through his negative feelings towards his stepmothers, these stories almost universally feature appalling female villains – for instance, a gargantuan Snow White and a chilling huntress that only Doctor Moreau could love.

This is where the book fails for me.  It’s as if the author can’t make up his mind whether or not this is supposed to truly be a book for adults or children.  The graphicness of the fairy tales makes it clear it isn’t really suitable for young adults.  But the rest of the book is written with a glossy sort of charm that suits that sect of readers more than adults.  The cadre of evil female characters is more than a bit literal and heavy handed, something I’d expect less of in adult fiction.  It’s clearly a coming of age story and the development of David is plainly there to see, yet the author still feels the need to whack the reader over the head with it.  That’s something I’d expect in a YA novel, not in one geared towards adults.  This indecision in its focus left me feeling rather ‘meh’ about the whole thing.

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Heathpie’s CBR III Review #9 – The Book of Lost Things

David’s mother has succumbed to a long illness, leaving David alone with his unimaginative father. Long before David has emerged from his own mourning process, his father remarries and a new baby is on the way. After moving into his stepmother’s ancestral home, David feels more and more like a stranger.

His mother had long ago introduced him to books, teaching him that without David reading their words and turning their pages, they simply cannot exist. David’s new bedroom is filled with books that belonged to a boy who mysteriously vanished, and though he yearns to know more, he can’t bring himself to be civil enough to his stepmother to even have a conversation.

And he’s not sure, but he’s pretty sure that he can hear the books talking to him, calling to him.

Feeling more and more alienated from his father, stepmother, and new half-brother, David retreats to his books and into his mind. Never a totally healthy child, he experiences strange seizures that leave him unconscious and drained. He acts out against his father and stepmother, refusing to speak and accepting punishment for his bad attitude.

On one fateful night, as German planes fly low in the London sky, David is drawn to the large garden by what he swears is his mother’s voice. He soon finds himself in a world of knights and monsters, sleeping maidens and dangerous trolls. His only salvation seems to be an ailing king who clings to The Book of Lost Things, his most prized possession.

Connolly deftly and magically transforms fairy tales – the old tales we all learned early in life – into scary, mind-blowing obstacles. David is faced with opposition from The Loups, half-human, half-wolf, fear that David’s presence could mean their destruction, and ferociously hunt him across the land. Terrifying and fantastic two-faced creatures block his path, helpful friends make unbelievable sacrifices, and David is forced to face that which he would have rather hidden from forever.

This amazing tale is one of love, fear, growth, and acceptance. It’s about facing those fears and learning to accept what you cannot change.

Connolly’s writing is so deliciously descriptive that I found myself reading paragraphs more than once. Not because I didn’t fully understand what I had read, but because the words seemed to flow off of the page and become real. I wanted to experience them again and again. Take this sentence, for example:

“On more than one occasion, David, in his urge to explore the darker corners of the bookshelves, had found himself wearing strands of spider silk in his face and hair, causing the web’s resident to scuttle into a corner and crouch balefully, lost in thoughts of arachnid revenge.”

Arachnid revenge? How awesome is that?! I loved this book. I hope you do, too.

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