Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Review: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

The Book of Lost Things book cover by John Connolly
When I picked this up last week, I couldn't remember a damn thing about it. I knew I bought it because Charlotte liked it (or she did in 2010, anyway - god, can you believe we were all friends back then!? Sidetracked, sorry...) and I eventually got round to reading it because my friend at work said it was her favourite book. The thing is though... I don't reeeeaaaaally get it.

Plot summary: High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.

I didn't dislike this book (it's amazing how many of my reviews feature that exact phrase and emphasis...) and I didn't struggle to pick it back up again at any point, but I wasn't exactly over-interested either.

It starts out really well and I actually fell fairly in love with it. David's mother passes away after a long illness and his only solace is in books. After a while you start to wonder if David is really doing alright, as he starts to hear his books talk to him. There are some beautiful passages and books and why we love them, and the different personalities of his books. It's told in an informal, chatty tone and it was honestly quite magical.
'The stories in books hate the stories in newspapers, David's mother would say. Newspaper stories were like newly caught fish, worthy of attention only for as long as they remained fresh, which was not very long at all. They were like the street urchins hawking the evening editions, all shouty and insistent, while stories- real stories, proper made-up stories-were like stern but helpful librarians in a well-stocked library. Newspaper stories were as insubstantial as smoke, as long-lived as mayflies. They did not take root but were instead like weeds that crawled along the ground, stealing the sunlight from more deserving tales.'
Then, unfortunately, the more fantastical side of the story happened.

I think I have actually managed to pin down why I was so under-whelmed by this book and it's purely because I never actually felt or cared about anything. This, in turn, is for three reasons.

1) David

David is twelve years old and likes his books. He doesn't go outside much and his main preoccupation is how much he dislikes his little brother. He's a bit wet, to be honest.

But when people start eating each other alive or women guillotine themselves down the middle, he's just fiiiiiiine. The Book of Lost Things is actually very graphic almost throughout the whole book and few details are spared, yet David is never, scared, emotional, hysterical or nauseated. Sure, the narrative may mention in passing that he was a bit freaked out, but he just didn't seem bothered. And if the protagonist isn't bothered, well then, I'm not going to be bothered either.

2) The Patchwork

This was the main issue for me I think. This book is very... linear. As in, they go to Point A, and then they go to Point B, and then they do Thing C. There's no... flow, really. An event happens, it's dealt with, and then they move onto the next one and it's never mentioned again.

You could argue that this effect was intentional as it creates a perception that David is walking through the seperate fairytales, which never merge into each other, after all. Either way, it didn't work for me.

3) The Theme

As previously mentioned, this book is quite graphic. It's gory to the point where I wondered if it was strictly necessary, and I look at pictures of dead people for a living.  

But the thing is, the overall moral of the story is so mind-numbiingly twee that it really didn't gel at all. You have the mismembered women on one hand... and the cutesy Labyrinth-esque theme on the other? PICK A TUNE AND WHISTLE IT.


The other thing (because I just haven't mentioned enough Things yet) about The Book of Lost Things is the size of it. At first glance, it's a fairly substantial book. Not huge, but not laugh-about-it-to-your-friends small. But then the book just kind of ends... and the essays begin. They're fine, they're about fairy tales and there are some reading group questions, etc etc, but they take up a huge chunk of the book. See the photo on the right? That's where the story stops.

LATER: Oh God damn it, I nearly forgot about that bloody stupid ending.

I know I've done it again and railed about a book I didn't actually dislike. It's probably my own fault for having such high expectations. It's not a bad book; it's clearly just not for me. 

Read Charlotte's much more positive review of The Book of Lost Things here. 


  1. Hmmm. This book is weirder than I expected. And yet I'm still curious about it. I'll try to borrow it from the library instead of buying it.

  2. Inside work on our trust frameworks, thought examples and practices is the hardest work any of us will ever do. It takes a lot of fearlessness and longing to change to experience the strenuous work of burrowing through the layers of shrouded emotions, encounters and damages. "All ___ lost"

  3. This book keeps popping up on my goodreads and blog feed. Am I missing out?! Come, on there's talking books, right? I can stand gore, but not sure I have the same tolerance for stupid endings.

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