This book by John Connolly is a cross between The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis in the sense that it starts off pretty innocent and just when I was about to start yawning, about fifty pages in it got interesting. The kind of jumping up and yelling “eureka” interesting.
One of the strongest aspects of this book for me is the retelling of fairy tales. My favorite one was of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Who would have thought dwarves fighting against “the man” and a much less than “fairest of them all” would have me in stitches. It’s an unexpected vibe and arguably the best retelling of this particular tale.
The fantasy elements are very strong. I really enjoyed the world building and the humanity that seeped through the other world. Certain elements are really distinct and lovely like the child flowers and the never ending light of dusk. The separation and blending of reality and the fantasy world really underscores how we can always find an element of fantasy in real life.
I liked how the main character, David, grows up and stops being a brat. Sometimes children in books are smackable and I’m not talking about a freshly applied a coat of Lip Smackers. I mean real knuckle sandwich material.
Thankfully, this character had some growing up to do. The beauty of this book is that it tricks you into thinking it’s going to be a children’s book and it veers so far off into adult candy land that it’s crazy.
David is getting over his mother’s death and shares an intense love of books with her. Storytelling was presented in various ways. The oral tradition, meaning different character would tell David stories, fairy tale reworkings, and David literally reading books. In fact, the actual Book of Lost Things was a nice twist on the story that our lives tell.
It’s a fantastic story about how the darkest actions and fears of humanity have ramifications for the future and the soul of man, not just our every day lives. The book outlines a journey–as David explores a brand new land that he is suddenly dumped into, he also explores parts of himself. He gains a self actualization that is refreshing to watch. What is also refreshing is that typically books of this nature try to say that the boy is a prodigy and “the one to save us all” and that there is nothing he can’t do. David is fully aware of his limitations and still manages to save everyone in a believable manner.
I also thought this book had some interesting things to say about growing up and pain, specifically about the way pain transforms us. There is a desire to stay in a utopia, to retain a child-like innocence without cares or worries. Eventually, the big bad world creeps in and forces one to adapt or die if changes and sacrifices are not made. Sometimes parts of us have to die in order to move forward and achieve maturity, and I thought this was handled really elegantly by John Connolly. In many ways, he used a story telling vehicle typically reserved for children and elevated it to make some profound insights on adult life. He does an uncanny job of combining the beautiful and the messed up. Definitely a 5/5