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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.
The Night Circus is one of those books that you just know you are going to adore from page one. I bought this when it first came out in hardback and it hung around on my TBR mountain for no real reason other than I just didn’t get to it. That was, of course, until Silvery Dude got the paperback and started harrying me to read it as he had totally fallen in love with it. So of course I had to pick it up because I (mostly) trust his judgement, not because we read competitively, not at all, whatever gave any of you that idea.
So, the Night Circus (or Cirque des Reves to give it its proper title but not its appropriate punctuation) is a touring sensation in the 1880s, with all the attractions of a normal circus but entirely in black and white and with some very particular elements – tents filled with clouds, an unusual clock and a dedicated group of followers identified by the wearing of red items amongst their black and white clothing. The story is not so much about the circus itself, although it is of course one of the main characters if I can put it that way, but is really about a duel (?) bet (?) wager (?), let’s say contest between two practitioners of magic which is played out through their protégés, Celia (the daughter of one) and Marco (the apprentice of the other). A contest that the participants have no real control over and only slowly come to understand who their opponent is. Opponents are. You know what I mean.
This is just glorious, I devoured it in a couple of sittings over a Bank Holiday and was totally immersed in the world that Erin Morgenstern creates. A remarkable set of characters, a narrative dipping backwards and forwards in time, with a really wonderful and believable love story slap bang in the middle and a very satisfying ending. One of those books that you just wish would keep going and that you miss as soon as you’ve finished it.
I know that I’m probably one of the last people in the universe to have read this, but on the off-chance that you haven’t and that you are someone who enjoys being beguiled, then please do read this. You won’t be sorry.
Another read for Once Upon a Time VII.
It’s so long since I’ve written a book review that I’m bit concerned that I’ve forgotten how but I am on a reading jag at the moment and have already built up a bit of a backlog (13 books and 7 films) with no sign of slowing down the reading/watching process, and I’m determined to catch-up before it all gets out of hand, so apologies in advance if your feeds etc. get swamped over the next week or so. Though some of the reviews may be fairly short given that I am known these days for having a poor remembery and some of this stuff goes back to May.
Let’s start with The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll. This was one of my reads for Carl’s Once Upon a Time challenge which finished on 21 June so well out of date in recording my thoughts. Carroll is one of those authors that I’ve been meaning to try over the years, as other bloggers have recommended. We already had this one in the house as part of the Book God’s Fantasy Masterwork collection so it seemed a good place to start. And it’s a book about books; well, a book about stories and their power and the obsession that readers sometimes develop with particular writers, especially writers that may have influenced during their childhoods.
The main characters in this story are Thomas, a school teacher who decides, along with his equally obsessed and fairly recently acquired girlfriend Saxony, to write a biography of the late and much-loved children’s author Marshall France. Previous attempts had failed under the apparently malign influence of France’s daughter Anna who still lives in her father’s house in the small town of Galen. Thomas and Saxony decide to move there in the hopes of persuading her to help. And that’s when things get weird.
This is one of those books that I wasn’t sure whether I liked or not until I had actually finished it, but it really stayed with me, especially the idea that the magic of writing could seep out into the real world. Elements of the story are really quite disturbing and it’s one of those fantasy novels that almost but not quite slips into horror. After a few months my considered opinion is that this is a really clever, slightly scary and distinctly odd book with a very original take on the imaginary becomes real theme and one that I may very well re-read.
And I’ll never look at bull terriers in quite the same way again.