John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things is another one of those books that I’ve had for a while but only really paid attention to when Silvery Dude told me that I would enjoy it. I made a start sometime last summer and for some reason couldn’t get on with it; the Silvery One dared to suggest that I might find it difficult to put myself in the mind of the lead character given that I have “never been a 12-year-old boy”, I countered with the fact that I had lost my mother so thought I might have an inkling of what was going on in our hero’s head. Though of course I was much older, but still.
For the lead character is indeed a young boy called David whose mother has died and who has had to watch his father remarry and have a child with his second wife. World War Two is in full flow and David is struggling with what looks like OCD, anger over his loss and feeling left out in his father’s new family (though not because of his stepmother who I rather liked). Like any sensible child he has a love of books but they begin to speak to him at night and start to affect the way he look sat the world.
And then the Crooked Man comes and David crosses over into a dark and dangerous world populated by the myths, folk and fairy tales with which he has become absorbed. Enticed by what appears to be his mother’s voice, he has to make his way through many perils to reach the King of this land and find his way home.
I thought this was a really dark story, which makes sense when you think about what the fairy tales we all know and love were like before they were sanitised for the safe consumption of youngsters. The Huntress in particular is truly dreadful, but it is the Crooked Man himself, who preys on the fears and jealousies of children to get what he wants; truly evil. And I’m not ashamed to say that I cried at the end, sad and lovely all at once.
My edition of the book has a fabulous section at the end which gives background on the tales referenced in the story for those who find that sort of thing interesting – that would be me – and led to a little follow-up reading list:
- From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner
- Nocturnes by John Connolly
- Transformations by Anne Sexton
- The Island of Dr Moreau by HG Wells
David’s story stayed with me for days after I read it. Another potential re-read, and a further read for Once Upon a Time VII.