I have always been fascinated by fairy tales. From an early age, any book I could find filled with fairy tales or fables, myths or legends or fables, immediately drew me in like a moth to flame. I have well over two dozen collections of such stories in my physical library, and I’m scared to even count those on my Kindle. Something about these stories, from the morals they attempt to convey to the questions they seek to answer. about the ways in which the world works, tells readers just as much about the society they come from as an historical text. And I’ve always had a soft spot for more modern tales inspired by these stories. Because of this, I’m not really sure why it took me so long to pick up The Book of Lost Things, but it was every bit as whimsical and melancholy and lovely as I hoped it would be. Some fairy tale retellings, or stories inspired in some way by fairy tales, can come across as too saccharine, but that was certainly not the case here. There was a charm to the story, for sure, but it was by no means sweet.
I was immediately reminded of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, both of which I absolutely adore. Both of the aforementioned books, as well as this one, managed to be melancholy in tone without being depressing, and there’s something beautiful about it. It’s a storytelling choice that, when done well, makes my heart ache in a wonderful way throughout the entire narrative. I love a book that can make me feel and feel deeply, and The Book of Lost Things managed to do that superbly within the first ten or so pages.
David’s superstitions at the beginning of the novel, doing whatever small things he can in hopes of saving his mother, rang so true to me. As did the blame and shame he heaped upon himself when those routines failed to keep her alive. I was heartbroken for David before I was even 5 pages into the book, and that heartbreak fostered a deep caring and a fierce love for his character. I was amazed by how quickly and completely Connelly coaxed me into wholly investing myself in this twelve year-old boy. This book is David’s journey through grief and his struggle to come to terms with change and learn that loving new people doesn’t mean that you love those you lost any less.
You can tell within a scant few pages that this novel is a love letter to stories, which is something I adore with every fiber of my being when done well. Connolly does it very well indeed. In my copy of the book, the final 120 or so pages are the author’s explanation of which fairy tales he included in his story and why, along with copies of the original tales themselves from their source material. I’m sure some readers would skip right past this section, as it’s not actually part of the narrative and isn’t even included in every edition, but for me it was an unexpected bonus that I very much enjoyed. An additional tale that this novel reminded me of was the movie Labyrinth, but I think that’s largely due to similarities between Rumplestiltskin and The Goblin King that I had honestly never considered.
“Without a human voice to read them aloud, or a pair of wide eyes following them by flashlight beneath a blanket, books had no real existence in our world. Like seeds in the beak of a bird waiting to fall to earth, or the notes of a song laid out on a sheet, yearning for an instrument to bring their music into being. they lie dormant hoping for the chance to emerge.They want us to give them life.”
The story actually lost a little bit of steam for me in the middle of the book, which should have been when it was at its most exciting. Somehow, the more adventurous parts of the book didn’t feel quite as special and unique as the more thoughtful, philosophical sections at the beginning and end of the novel. However, that’s a very subjective, nit-picky opinion. It’s my only real complaint, and why I didn’t give the book a full 5 star rating.
The Book of Lost Things is a dark, delightful return to and fracturing of stories that I’ve loved since I was a small child. And yet it’s very much its own story. This is a book that could be read my a mature child, a teen, or an adult of any age. It won an Alex Award, which is given to adult novels that appeal to a younger audience. If you’re a lover of fairy tales, or a lover of books, or a lover of deep thoughts and emotions running through your reading material, I think you would enjoy this novel. But if you’re like me and a lover of all three, I have a feeling that this book will become something special to you should you pick it up. I know it’s now special to me.
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