TITLE: The Book of Lost Things
AUTHOR: John Connolly
BLURB: 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.
I think it’s only fair to admit I’m a big fan of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels and I opened this book with high expectations of a standard of writing that elevates a modern novel towards real literature; I wasn’t disappointed. The language and descriptive prose are of Connolly’s usual high quality, but it at no time overpowers the story or the flow of the narrative. In fact the subject matter lends itself well to the considered turn of phrase that characterises this author’s work.
The characters are well formed and it doesn’t take long before the reader can begin to empathise with them and their plight. One might mistakenly feel this is a children’s novel given the fact the hero is a young boy but that would be a mistake. The themes of loss and a right of passage are very adult indeed and looking at these parts of life’s journey from an adolescent viewpoint can actually accentuate the sense of empathy.
The plot is sufficient to keep your interest on many levels – not least because of the intertwining theme of retelling folktales and fairy tales – but because it resonates with any good quest based novel. Breadcrumbs of stories ranging from little red riding hood to Don Quixote and even Robert Browning’s epic poem Childe Roland To The Darktower Came, serve to create a familiarity with the characters and storyline that may, in fact, have helped the plot to flow so well toward a satisfying conclusion. Published 10 years ago it would make you wonder how much the makers of TV series such as Grimm and Once Upon a Time might have been influenced by this novel.
A fulsome Q&A with the author and writer’s notes at the back of the book add a lot to the after-taste when the poignant epilogue is finished. Asked if there was a chance of a sequel the author doesn’t rule it out, but alas it’s a ling time coming.