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The Book of Lost Things: A Novel by John…

The Book of Lost Things: A Novel (original 2008; edition 2007)

by John Connolly

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5,333293823 (3.98)2 / 457
Title:The Book of Lost Things: A Novel
Authors:John Connolly
Info:Washington Square Press (2007), Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Book of Lost Things: A Novel by John Connolly (2008)

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English (288)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  French (2)  All (294)
Showing 1-5 of 288 (next | show all)
What attracted me about The Book of Lost Things was, first, the title with its intimation of mystery and, second, the cover illustration by Robert Ryan with its suggestion of the sinister wild wood of the fairytale imagination. Then, as I read it, it morphed. At times it felt like a scrapbook filled with pictures, cuttings and ephemera saved as souvenirs. Occasionally it reminded me of a Commonplace Book, those more literary scrapbooks whose owners copy passages that catch their eye, aphorisms, and quotes, or of a jotter in which random thoughts are noted down in the hopes that they will make sense at some future point.

So what is it essentially? It is a novel about folktales and fairytales, especially the latter with their implicit morals and rules for living an honest life. It's also a story about living in a fictional dream-like world in real time which somehow becomes real. And it's a narrative about how living in a fairytale world can reveal secrets and the difference between truth and lies.

David is a bookish youngster growing up in London during the second world war. His father is a distant figure -- as many middleclass fathers were -- doing hush-hush work with the government. But his mother is dying and he thinks his sacrifices and ritualised repetitive behaviour may allow her to live. But his world falls apart when she dies, his father remarries, they move out of central London and a new brother is born. These stressful life events, the cumulative effect of which affects physical and mental health, take their toll on the sensitive 12-year-old: his OCD-like rituals and waking dreams mean fruitless visits to a psychiatrist. He hears books having whispered conversations and sees a twisted contorted figure in his bedroom. And then there comes the moment when the Second World War comes to meet him.

The Book of Lost Things is not a perfect novel. I found it uneven, over-detailed in parts, slow-paced at times, and -- just once or twice -- anachronistic ('sizeist' is used at one point, a term at odds with a tale set in the first half of the 20th century). But as a portrayal of a young mind struggling to make sense of a world gone mad by resorting to fairytales and myth it made absolute sense. As with all good portal fantasies, David finds himself thrown into a world where classic fairytales become trammelled up in the protagonist's own experiences, hopes and fears. In particular his despair at losing a mother and gaining a stepmother means he has conflicting thoughts about women. His quest is to find the truth about his mother, but his antipathy towards Rose, his father's new wife, gives rise to all manner of frightening female figures, some producing repulsive offspring, others threatening torture and death.

The other character to feature is the terrible figure David thinks of as the Crooked Man. Less benign than the nonsense rhyme Crooked Man, he is the personification of all the pent-up confusion and anger David feels about his situation, most of it focused on David's half-brother George. The author explicitly draws on the story of Rumpelstiltskin in relaying the motifs of child-snatcher and the power one can gain from knowing someone's name. The Crooked Man is twisted by name and twisted by nature, but his own power comes from the twisted thoughts his victims have, thoughts born exactly from the feelings of a boy who feels neglected and unloved, and is thrashing around with the frustrations that have arisen from those feelings.

Interwoven with the quest that David has embarked on are Connolly's versions of classic fairytales largely drawn from the Grimm versions and also classic mythology. These are often very contorted versions of the tales, in which characters may have different motivations and appearances, and where conclusions aren't what is expected.

This edition includes not only woodcuts by Anne Anderson but also 50% extra text in the form of an Afterword, notes, a Q & A section and bonus material on certain tale types. It's clear that all these extras inform us how much Connolly's 2006 novel was indebted to the fairytale tradition, but the novel itself is no slavish retelling.

The Book of Lost Things is, then, an adult view of the nightmarish experience of growing up, and it suggests how traditional tales relate to that nightmare and how they can help heal the traumas that childhood bring. It's not totally satisfying in its telling but it does speak truth. There is resolution at the end but it's realistic: there's no happy-ever-after but instead a recognition that lives are messy and that death comes to us all. It's not how long we live but how we led that life. And that, I would think, is what fairytales are really for.

http://wp.me/s2oNj1-crooked ( )
  ed.pendragon | Aug 26, 2017 |
A fary-tale story for grown-ups. John Connolly proves that he can write more than just thrillers. ( )
  MaraBlaise | Apr 14, 2017 |
Still my favorite book to date, "The Book of Lost Things" is a bitter-sweet, cruel, yet wise and moving tale about growing up and facing the challenges coming with it, and the power of imagination, feelings, books and stories, deeply anchored within ourselves, shaping us and the reality we perceive.

  sonoKoala | Mar 7, 2017 |
Still my favorite book to date, "The Book of Lost Things" is a bitter-sweet, cruel, yet wise and moving tale about growing up and facing the challenges coming with it, and the power of imagination, feelings, books and stories, deeply anchored within ourselves, shaping us and the reality we perceive.

( )
  sonoKoala | Mar 7, 2017 |
Still my favorite book to date, "The Book of Lost Things" is a bitter-sweet, cruel, yet wise and moving tale about growing up and facing the challenges coming with it, and the power of imagination, feelings, books and stories, deeply anchored within ourselves, shaping us and the reality we perceive.

( )
  sonoKoala | Mar 7, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 288 (next | show all)
This is an adult novel steeped in children's literature that cannily makes its 1940s junior protagonist credibly ignorant of aspects which the grown-up reader, or any modern kid, will catch at once.

Written in the clear, evocative manner of the best British fairy tales from JM Barrie to CS Lewis, The Book of Lost Things is an engaging, magical, thoughtful read.
added by Stir | editThe Independent, Kim Newman (Sep 25, 2006)
Good ideas, these afterthoughts, every one; but rather than go back and write them in, he sticks them down in the pluperfect and hurries on. The result is less a novel in any genre than a catalogue, a dispiritingly detailed outline for something Connolly might like to write, if he only had the time, or the talent, or a decent editor.
added by Stir | editThe Guardian, Colin Greenland (Sep 22, 2006)

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Connolly, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bortolussi, StefanoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ryan, RobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life. - Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)
Everything you can imagine is real. - Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
This book is dedicated to an adult, Jennifer Ridyard, and to Cameron and Alistair Ridyard, who will be adults too soon. For in every adult dwells the child that was, and in every child lies the adult that will be.
First words
Once upon a time—for that is how all stories should begin—there was a boy who lost his mother.
He would talk to them of stories and books, and explain to them how stories wanted to be told and books wanted to be read, and how everything that they ever needed to know about life and the land of which he wrote, or about any land or realm that they could imagine, was contained in books. And some of the children understood, and some did not.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 074329890X, Paperback)

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Taking refuge in fairy tales after the loss of his mother, twelve-year-old David finds himself violently propelled into an imaginary land in which the boundaries of fantasy and reality are disturbingly melded.

(summary from another edition)

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