Don’t loan me books. I am overwhelmed by them, and my guilt at holding onto your artifact will not affect my scattered method of attacking my TBR.
I have had this book for twelve years. I am a bad book friend! But it was worth the wait?
The Book of Lost Things is about David, a twelve-year-old in WWII-era England who has recently lost his mother. His father remarries, and his new wife is kind, but David cannot help but resent her, and this resentment increases when they move into her family home in the country as their home city gets blitzed. The arrival of a new brother exacerbates David’s discontent, and as his grief and resentment grow, he finds the books in his room speaking to him. He doesn’t mind – his mother used to tell him stories were alive, and he keeps a connection to his mother through reading. He is a bit curious about the appearance of a figure he calls the Crooked Man. One night during an air raid, David hears his mother’s voice calling to him from the garden, and there he finds himself pulled into another world. This world has the familiar pieces of David’s beloved fairy tales, but everything is much more perverted, violent, and uncomfortable. It’s a war-torn kingdom, like his own, but it’s tricksters, witches, and beasts that are attacking. A woodsman befriends David and tells him the king may know how he can return home, and so David embarks on this quest in hopes of finding his way back (and maybe finding his mother).
This was handed to me because I am a huge fan of the dark origins of fairy tales, and boy is this thing dark! It veers into horror occasionally, but does so very well. The tone reads like an old literary fairy tale, and it also reminded me of The Book Thief (another reason it was probably handed to me). I think fans of Pan’s Labyrinth would also find a lot to enjoy here. Boy, we really like combining WWII with fairy tales/book lore!
The characters are very archetypal, but still given a lot of care and life. The Crooked Man is truly scary, a gross Rumpelstilkin trickster whose agenda is obviously shady from the start, but has some good reveals at the end.
Connolly’s research into the fairy tales he weaves in is fantastic and he shares it, as well as his own versions of the original tales, at the end of the book. All of the tales are told throughout the story, but if you can believe it, the twists are even darker than the original folklore!
The only thing I didn’t love in this is how some fat characters were portrayed. Those are brief instances in a hefty book, and the treatment is typical of an old fairy tale, but it’s worth mentioning if you want to skip it. The violence also affects some animals as well, if that is a trigger.