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The Book of Lost Things (thoughts)

January 23, 2008

I think the act of reading imbues the reader with a sensitivity toward the outside world that people who don’t read can sometimes lack. I know it seems like a contradiction in terms; after all, reading is such a solitary, internalizing act that it appears to represent a disengagement from day-to-day life. But reading, and particularly the reading of fiction, encourages us to see it in a completely different form. It allows us to inhabit the consciousness of antoerh, which is a precursor to empathy, and empathy is, for me, one of the marks of a decent human being. ~John Connolly (author’s interview, The Book of Lost Things)
Chris and Nymeth have both already reviewed John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things. Both of the reviews are simply Chunkster Challengewonderful, and sum up almost everything that I had planned on saying. :)  As Nymeth pointed out, the paperback version has a ton of fairy tales in the back-all of the ones that Connolly used in the book. While this was awesome in itself, it was a bit of a mixed blessing, because I didn’t realise how soon the actual novel was going to end! Thought I’d provide that warning for anyone else going into it, because this is one of those books you don’t want to end.Connolly has an incredible respect for both children and books themselves. In the author interview, he explains why the dwarves David (the main character) meets are Communists:

[The dwarves’] personalities, though, have been altered slightly by their proximity to a history of communism on David’s bookshelves, a book that David has tried and failed to understand, giving up after only a couple of pages. One of the themes of The Book of Lost Things is the way in which stories and books feed into one another, in much the same way that I, as a writer, have been influenced by the books that I have read.

So, here’s how this post is going to go: go read Chris and Nymeth’s reviews, and then come back here.

Right…they’ve talked really well about the book itself. Now I’m going to introduce you to my favourite characters. :) First, the Communist dwarves…here they are talking with David about their *ahem* roommate:

“Huh,” said the dwarf, apparently satisified, and started walking again. “Everybody’s heard of her: ‘Ooooh, Snow White who lives with the drawfs, eats them out of house and home. They couldn’t even kill her right.’ Oh yes, everybody knows about Snow White.”
“Er, kill her?” asked David.
“Poisoned apple,” said the dwarf. “Didn’t go too well. We underestimated the dose.”
“I thought it was her wicked stepmother who poisoned her,” said David.
“You don’t read the papers,” said the dwarf. “Turned out the wicked stepmother had an alibi.”
“We should really have checked first,” said Brother Number Five. “Seems she was off poisoning someone else at the time. Chance in a million, really. It was just bad luck.”

And then there’s the Woodman, who is rather like Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia (except for the whole lion thing):

There was a man standing in the shadows a short distance from him. He was big and tall, with broad shoulders and short, dark hair. He wore brown boots of leather that came almost to his knees and a short coat made form skins and hides. His eyes were very green, so that he seemed almost like a part of the forest himself given human form.

Oh! And I can’t forget my absolute favourite character: Roland, a gallant knight on a quest to discover what happened to his friend. Anyone who adored the Arthur stories as a child will love him:

As he was packing away the remains of his food, he saw a figure approaching on a white horse. David was tempted to hide, but he knew that if he could see the horseman, then the horseman could also see him. The figure drew nearer, and David could see that he was wearing a silver beastplate decorated with twin symbols of the sun, and he had a silver helmet upon his head. A sword hung from one side of his belt, and a bow and a quiver of arrows lay on his back: the weapons of choice in this world, it seemed. A shield, also bearing the device of the twin suns, hung from his saddle. He pulled his horse up when he was alongside David and looked at the boy.

Finally, there’s one of the best villains I’ve met in a long time: the kind of character that a reader takes great pleasure in hating: the Crooked Man. I won’t share a description of him, because I’d rather keep him off of my blog.

Now go and get your hands on this book! It was a delicious read: like all the best fairy tales, it speaks to something deep inside, about the dark truths of life, but also about the nobility and good there as well. I’m going to share all of my favourite passages, and if you’re not sure whether to read the book or not, take a look. I think you’ll find both fantastic sensibilities and modern humour!

My other favourite passage, that I couldn’t think of a way to work in:
An unseen mother couldn’t go for long walks with you on summer evenings, drawing the names of trees and flowers from her seemingly infinite knowledge of nature; or help you with your homework, the familiar scent of her in your nostrils as she leaned in to correct a misspelling or puzzle over the meaning of an unfamiliar poem; or read with you on cold Sunday afternoons when the fire was burning and the rain was beating down upon the windows and the roof and the room was filled with smell of woodsmoke and crumpets. (11)

16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2008 5:36 pm

    Cool, I’ve got this book on my 2008 TBR Challenge list and I just can’t wait to dive in!!

  2. January 23, 2008 6:03 pm

    I really liked this one as well! It was a “delicious read,” wasn’t it?

  3. January 23, 2008 7:27 pm

    I’m so glad that you enjoyed it, Eva. It was amazing, wasn’t it? I totally missed that the dwarves were communists! I really need to get the paperback version too for all the extras. The Crooked Man was such a cool villain…completely agree with you that he’s one of the best written in awhile. Definitely a favorite read of last year. I really want to read Nocturnes now. You read that last year didn’t you? I think I remember you reviewing that one!

  4. January 23, 2008 10:00 pm

    Stephanie, I hope you’ll have fun!

    Jenclair, it most definitely was.

    Chris, as a Russian major, I have “Communist radar.” lol-j/k The hardcover didn’t have the extras? That’s weird! I did read Nocturnes last year, and it was very good, but most of the stories were a very different style than Book of Lost Things.

  5. January 24, 2008 12:43 am

    I’m glad you loved this one too :) The same thing happened to me regarding the extras – I didn’t realize they were there at first, and I thought the novel would go on for much longer than it did! I was disappointed when I found out. But not for long, of course, as I really enjoyed reading the extras.

    I loved Roland, too. And The Crooked Man is like something out of a nightmare!

    I really have to read Nocturnes at some point this year.

  6. January 24, 2008 2:47 pm

    I’ve got to bump this book up! I’ve heard nothing but wonderful rave reviews. It’s sitting within eyeshot right now as a matter of fact. I just wanna pet it!

  7. January 24, 2008 9:28 pm

    Nymeth, those extras were awesome! As I mentioned to Chris, Nocturnes is very different but still very good!

    Andi, at least in the mean time you have anticipation! :)

  8. February 2, 2008 2:22 am

    Eva this sounds amazing. And I loved reading your post and then heading over to Chris and Nymeth’s and then back to you :) Incredibly, I’ve not heard of this book. The complexity, the fairy tales, grief, loss and growing up – sounds like something I’d love. Thanks for putting this in your chunky challenge, as I’m terribly at keeping track of YA fiction!

  9. February 2, 2008 3:58 am

    Logophile, I’m glad you had fun! :) Although, Connolly was very explicit that he considers this an adult book, rather than a YA. The author interview goes into a lot of detail, about how it’s for adults reminiscing on loss and grief in childhood. I’d recommend getting the paperback, since the hardcover didn’t have the 100+ pages of extras!

  10. February 10, 2008 12:57 pm

    I read your review and ordered the book from Paperback Swap. This sounds like a book I would really like. I love fairy tales and the fantasy genre in general. Thanks for the recommendation!

  11. February 10, 2008 3:40 pm

    ALittleBitMoore, thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you’re going to read it. :)

  12. May 9, 2008 6:14 am

    Yeah, the Crooked Man is one doozy of a creepy character. He is one of the best, most scary villian I have read about in a while.


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