The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
The Book of Lost Things is a dark and emotional fairytale for adults that will take you to a place where the sun never fully rises and the wolves walk on two legs…
John Connolly’s The Book Of Lost Things begins in England during the midst of World War Two, where twelve-year-old David wrestles with the death of his mother, his father’s remarriage, and a half-brother he fears will replace him. When David hears his mother’s voice calling for him from the cracks in a stone wall, he grasps onto the far-fetched possibility of seeing her again and disappears into a strange land where wolves walk on two legs and the sun never fully rises. Frightened and alone, David takes the advice of a woodsman and sets off in search of the king’s fabled Book of Lost Things in the hope that this mysterious tome might house a way back to the home he’s lost. David must outwit strange monsters along the way, but none are more horrifying than The Crooked Man who lurks in the shadows and underground places with a bargain too good to be true. The Crooked Man could give David everything he’s ever wanted, but is it at a price David is willing to pay?
The Book of Lost Things is a welcome return to the fairytales we left behind in adulthood as it guides us deeper into their shadows than we ventured as children. Thoughtful and emotionally provocative, Connolly weaves fantasy and simplistic story-telling with lessons we’ve dismissed as clichés. This is a book I would give to people who love fairytales and to people who hate them.
The not-so-distant setting is significantly closer than any magical kingdom our protagonist could visit, but Connolly leaves both the real world and the fairytale kingdom alien enough that readers will be examining the way setting plays a part in their own lives. Connolly walks the fine line between a story for adults and a story for children with ease. Though some parts have enough mature connotations for an adult to acknowledge, none of the inclusions are obvious or graphic enough to prevent them from being read to a young child. The story can readily be interpreted metaphorically or fantastically, lending itself to analysis or enjoyment at the reader’s discretion.
I was most impressed by the amount of emotion I had invested within the characters after only fifteen pages. Other stories have needed an entire series or excessive backstory to make their characters sympathetic, but David is immediately believable and relatable enough to wrap me in his feelings and story. As a protagonist, David is completely human, and he conquers his inner demons without super strength or a magic wand. The story that follows progresses naturally and, though familiar, still surprised me with its direction.
John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things makes the perfect addition to a fairytale collection or as a gentle reminder to treasure the child we once were. Fans of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart (Inkheart Trilogy) and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief will find themselves at home with familiar themes. Support your local bookstore or library by picking up a copy.