The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly is one of the freakeist books I have ever read. Wow! It’s going to stay with me for a while I can’t deny it.
It would be easy to imagine from the synopsis of this book that it is a children’s or young adult book about a young boy called David who loves to read and ends up becoming part of a story. I was imagining it to be a modern take on The Neverending Story, how wrong I was. This is definitely not a children’s book and I would be reluctant to allow a teenage child of mine to read it. Despite having a child as the main character, it is definitely a book for adults only.
Let’s start with the plot; David is a young boy who features as the main character in the novel which is set in the late 1930s around the time of the Second World War. David’s mum dies of what we can presume is cancer, and David and his father move in with David’s father’s new girlfriend Rose. David hates Rose because he sees her as a threat to his mother’s memory, and he hates her more when she gives birth to David’s brother Georgie.
David suddenly begins to have blackouts and during this time he sees into another world where A Crooked Man wants him to be the new king, he can also hear books whispering to him now. Then one night, lured by the voice of his dead mother, David ventures into a new land, a land of fairytales and nightmares.
The book is written extremely well, the prose is of a high quality and it is clear that the author has a fascination with folklore and fairytales but he adds a darker twist. I was going to phrase that as deliciously darker but there is nothing delicious about the horrors he includes. From children learning too much about what adults do when they’re alone, to weird hunters who carry out freakish experiments (which put me off my pizza and that’s no easy feat).
I think the shock factor works better because the book is not like you’d expect, if you’ve read the original Grimm’s fairytales then you’ll have an idea of how dark and nasty some of the stories in this one can be. But only an idea. This novel surpasses those early tales for gore, death, mutilation and physical and mental abuse. Trust me when I say that you will no longer view the characters of fairy tales quite the same again.
An amazing if difficult (graphic content) read that will stay with me for a long time to come.