One of the items on my checklist is to read at least one book a month. I don’t want to write reviews, but I want to share my thoughts about some of the books I read. (Also, spoiler alerts ahead if you’re sensitive about that.)
Sometime around June, I went downtown to Outland with a couple of friends. While they were browsing the fantasy literature section, I was left alone wandering the shop (since I’m not an avid fantasy reader. I would like to add an unfortunately in there somewhere, but… not yet.). After some time, a book with a red cover caught my eye. I found myself holding The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, and ended up buying it because of its cover. I was left alone for too long, and went home with an impulse buy.
For some time, its only purpose was to sit and burn a hole on my shelf. Luckily, this didn’t last long, because I began and finished it in three days last week. I began reading it thinking it was a children’s book (which proved to be false). The plot revolves around a 12-year-old, David, who loses his mother to an unnamed illness (typical description fit for a children’s book, I thought). In the mourning of his loss, he enters the world of imagination where everything comes to life by the many stories told by his mother. This happens while WWI rages around him and his family (which I didn’t catch before way too long into the book. The end, actually.).
The very first sentence is that of a fairy tale: The Once upon a time… we all are so far too familiar with. The author uses a simple language which, in some places, feels very relaxing for the mind and is much appreciated after reading a heavy book such as The Process by Franz Kafka (the guy’s insane! Thumbs up.). However, the simplicity comes too short several places in the story, and it’s very noticeable when the author resorts to using phrases like “[…] and many days went by” in order for the story to progress. It’s not pleasing when several days go by in one single sentence when it took the Main Character & Co. a whole chapter to move across a bloody bridge. Come on. I feel cheated. What an abrubt way to finish a chapter.
This can be justified, in a sense, seeing as it bears resemblance to a fairy tale, but the story is also very close to reality in the way it deals with the death of the main character’s mother, the WWI and dead soldiers. I have to admit, though, that I was disappointed by these “easy and quick solutions”.
However, the story in itself isn’t bad, at all. It became very intense about 1/3 into the book. It is more than just a novel about a cliché theme like “the wonders of a child’s imagination”. Themes such as death, the feeling of loss, jealousy, the hunger for power and beastiality, of all things, all make an appearance. And the descriptions of (un)dead bodies and several horrific abominations of the mind all become very much alive.
Many things seemed to be left unsaid throughout the book, which was what I liked most about it. I initially thought that the main character’s development towards the entering of this world of imagination depicted his journey into madness, that he slowly became insane as an inevitable result of the terrible grief he felt from the loss of his mother, but the ending killed this blissful thought. The last chapter made it clear that this is a book for young adults around the age of twelve (or younger), because the rest of the main character’s life was quickly laid out in short paragraphs.
In my opinion, the book could easily have done without the last chapter without seeming unfinished, because it appeared to be very rushed, which defeated its own purpose. “He grew up, he became old, he died”, told in short. Only the very last sentence in the last chapter bore any trace of importance. It wasn’t necessary for the reader to know how it went with David after the main story, because it took away the sense of wonder the book had been trying to build up throughout the 300+ pages. It seemed a bit wasted, this attempt at tickling the reader’s curiosity.
To sum it up: It is fiction. Not to be mixed with fairy tales or fantasy, and definitely not a physchological thriller. It is only masked like a fairy tale because of the very first sentence and the last chapter. If you want an easy read with an intertwining storyline, then go for this one. Despite the malplaced first sentence and last chapter, there isn’t anything else I want to complain about.
No, there is. I don’t like the name David for the main character. It didn’t fit him. Something else felt more appropriate, like Joel or Abraham, Abe for short. (But this didn’t seem important or relevant enough in any way to include in this post. Which I almost didn’t. Hm.)