Monday, September 20, 2010

The Book of Lost Things

by John Connolly

The Book of Lost Things is like The Chronicles of Narnia meets The Wizard of Oz meets The Neverending Story meets Pan's Labrynth meets The Nightmare Before Christmas (just the end bit with Oogie Boogie).

This book makes books feel magical again. I remember reading The Chronicles of Narnia when I was younger and thinking they were the most magical books in the whole world. They were wonderful and scary and great stories of conflict and victory, and what child wouldn't love talking animals? I absolutely loved reading those books and desperately wished I could walk through a wardrobe to a magical land. But I had forgotten that feeling of stories being magical and having the power to transport. It was great to feel that again. I felt like a little kid again, when a book was a kind of treasure. I wanted to read this slowly, savor it, while cuddling in bed, secretly and alone.

Connolly has a beautiful way with language. His descriptions are vivid and fitting, like calling David's mother's disease "a creeping, cowardly thing, as sickness that ate away at her from the inside, slowly consuming the light within." The way he writes is well suited to this fairy tale-style book. I will say that it is a bit formulaic, however that is just the way fairy tales function; it's to be expected, and I don't fault Connolly for it. But he does put his own twist on familiar fairy tales, giving the reader new perspectives, like what happens when Snow White doesn't live happily ever after. When I read "The Woodsman's First Tale" about the adult Red Ridding Hood, I thought, Ok. WHAT am I reading?? But by then I was hooked and couldn't wait to see how the story unfolded.

The problem with fairy tales is that they have to end, and it seem that no matter how they end, I'm left feeling a little dissatisfied, and I don't quite know why. I think it's that I don't like that cryptic, did it happen/did it not happen? sentiment. I want it to be clear cut: Yes it was all true, or no it was all imagined in David's head as a result of some trauma. I'm right there with him for his journey, regardless; suspension of disbelief is not an issue with me. But then he comes out of it, grows up in the span of 6 pages (David "became a writer and he wrote a book. He called it The Book of Lost Things, and the book that you are now holding is the book that he wrote"? Lame. I hate that. No, it is not his book. It is not narrated by him. Don't try to make what is clearly a piece of fiction a nonsensical reality. I'm not that dumb, and it just doesn't work.) and suddenly the whole thing is over. However, I did like the last page and a half. I thought that was a nice way to end. Again, maybe a little predictable, maybe a little lame, but I thought it was fitting and just, well, nice.

The Book of Lost Things is a great dose of escapism. I don't really think it's all that great of a coming-of-age-story, as some reviewers have said. But it does put a great new, dark twist on fairy tales and is a genuinely good read.

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