Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly


Two nights ago, I closed the final pages of A Midsummer Night's Dream and declared an end to my journey through the Once Upon A Time challenge...But then thunder rumbled outside my window and the rains came...and John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things called to me. So I made myself a cup of tea and began the journey through this amazing book with the following opening passage:

"Once upon a time - for that is how all stories should begin - there was a boy who lost his mother."

This passage, while it may seem a bit dreary, really sets the tone for the novel. It is first and foremost, a book of tales...a "once upon a time" story. It is also a coming of age story, represented well by the picture of a boy losing his mother, a boy losing that childlike innocence.

David is our main character and is very close with his mother. They share a love of books, a love of reading, a love of fables and tales. When his mother becomes ill and dies, David feels that he is somewhat responsible for it because of his failure to be there for her as much as he should have or to perform his ritualistic compulsions that he has created as much as he should have. Shortly after his mother's death, there are new additions to the family. In the midst of all of this, the Germans are attacking near David's home in the middle of World War II.

Books are now beginning to whisper to David. At first they are subtle voices, just faint whispers or coughs, but soon distinct voices are heard and one clear voice is that of his mother's. Following that voice one night, David finds himself in the middle of an air raid from a German plane and when he lifts his head, it is in a world unknown to him. Here is the world that he has read about in every book on his shelves. It is beautiful and sinister. Danger creeps around each corner and strange things lurk in shadows. It is the a land of fairy tales, but not the fairy tales of Mother Goose....these are the tales where modern tales get their origins. Not quite so cheery.

He continues to hear his mother's voice and learns that he must make a journey to the king's castle where he can find The Book of Lost Things which will hold the key to his mother and his return home. Along the way there are adventures galore as we watch David grow from a child to a young man in this beautiful and terrifying tale.

This is one of the most imaginative books I have read. The language is beautiful and I love the way that he has weaved classic tales into his own work and has made them his own - painting them in a new light while preserving the original perfectly. I've never read anything by Connolly, but I will certainly be picking up more of his books after this one. The last few pages of this book were quite emotional. I had goosebumps while reading them and haven't had such an emotional response to a book in ages. This is a book of grief and loss. Of acceptance, of guilt, of experience, humility, growth, strength, bravery, and wisdom.

This book was truly an engrossing and inspiring experience and the shocker of the year so far. Not in that the story itself had a shocking plot...it was just much more powerful than what I expected. I was blown away. I think that this one should be on everyone's reading list. I don't usually rate books, but if I did, this one would definitely earn a 5/5 plus some.

Other Reviews:

Melody

16 comments:

Jeff S. said...

WOW! Great review Chris! I can feel the passion you have for this book reaching through my laptop and it has gripped me too. I now HAVE to read this book. My gut kept telling me I should buy this in the store but I hate the cover and that's why I kept putting it back. What a fool I am to judge a book by its cover. :)

Your review reminds me of the way Carl spoke to me of Gaiman three or so years ago. His passion for Gaiman was infectious and thus I had to read one of his books and boy I wasn't disappointed. I first picked up Stardust and was hooked. I'm now a huge Gaiman fan. Just a notch below Carl on my love of his works.

My gut tells me I may be on the verge of finding another great author which as a book lover makes me smile. I'll be picking this book up soon. Thanks again!

Chris said...

Ha! Yeah, I recommend this one Jeff. I wrote the review the second I put the book down so that those feelings would come through loud and clear. It was great! I really think you'll like this one...especially if you're a fan of Gaiman. I researched Connolly on Amazon and this sounds very different from the rest of his books. The rest seem to be crime thrillers with a little bit of a paranormal edge to some of them. This one is nothing like that though. Enjoy!

Nymeth said...

Wow! I NEED to read this book!

Thanks for the wonderful review!

aichaku-愛着 said...

I've been wanting to read this book but kept putting off buying it because the library has a copy and I'm waiting for it to be available. Now that I've read your review, I feel I really need to just buy it and read it immediately! I love that the book touched you on an emotional level. I always like it best when that happens for me.

Quixotic said...

This really is a wonderful book, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Fantastic review, Chris. You've made me want to dig through the boxes and read it again, although I will have to resist that temptation, at least for a little while!

I haven't yet read anything else by Connolly, but I plan to even though his other work is very different - I want to see if his writing is as captivating in the other books.

I knew somehow that you'd love this one. :)

DesLily said...

Great review Chris....I knew you'd like this book..makes you feel sorry it wasn't longer.

I enjoyed it when I read it too!

Bookfool said...

Ooooh, I've gotta get my mitts on this one!! Thanks, terrific review. And, wasn't that rain nice?

Carl V. said...

I have a friend, who, incidently I bought this book for, who has assured me that I can borrow it at any time. I think I need to do so sooner rather than later!

Great review!!!

Robin said...

This sounds really good, Chris! I'm going to put it on my list. Thanks for the great review!

Chris said...

Nymeth, Yes, you do indeed need to read this book ;) You'll love it!

Aichaku, It was quite the emotional book towards the end...all over the place really now that I think about it. I think you'd enjoy it.

Quix, Wasn't it great? I had to go back and read your review too of course and I swear we seem to share a brain when it comes to books ;) So glad that I fit this one in for the challenge. I looked into his other books as well, and they seem very different from this one, but I think I'll give them a try. His writing was so good in this one.

Deslily, Exactly how I felt, I wanted to be at LEAST twice the size of what it was ;) It was such a great little book...but I guess all good things must come to an end. Great book!

Bookfool, Yes, read this one! You'll love it! The rain was great..we haven't had a storm like that with lightning and thunder in ages. It's just been plain old rain. Very nice reading weather!

Carl, You have to read this one!!! You'll love it. I kept thinking about how much you'd love this one while I was reading it. Right up your alley.

Robin, I'm so glad that this one's going on your list! This one should be on everyone's list in my opinion ;) Really great book...hope you enjoy it!

Bookfool said...

Same here - it was a whopper of a storm! Not fun to drive home in (we were at the theater in Clinton when it hit) but when we got home we just curled up and enjoyed reading to the sound of crashing and pattering. It was oddly comforting. :)

Bellezza said...

I bought this for one of my son's Christmas presents. He is a Fantasy/Sci Fi lover like you and Carl V. and Quixotical! However, I think I'll have to grab it from his room (if I can find it!).

Chris said...

Hey Bellezza! Good to have you back! I hope he likes it..it was such a great book, I'm sure you'd like it too...go steal it! ;)

jenclair said...

I really liked this one, too, Chris. I wasn't what I expected, it was more than I expected.

Chris said...

Same way I felt Jenclair! Much more than what I was expecting! Great book...one of my favorites this year.

Dewey said...

I just finished this recently and really loved it, too.