The Book of Lost Things
By John Connolly
Published by Atria books
Being one who does not enjoy books of wanton violence (e.g. serial killer/thriller fiction) “The Book of Lost Things” is the only John Connolly book I have been tempted to read based on the dust jacket summaries.
“The Book of Lost Things” is about coming to terms with loss, growing in to adulthood, and learning to love and trust in a world that appears, and sometimes is, cruel and twisted. It also shows the power that fairytales, myths, and stories have in helping us to understand ourselves and the world around us. Don’t let me lull you into thinking that this is a children’s book that is devoid of action and suspense. This book is full of heroes and villains that inhabit a dark, cold, and dangerous world; a world where the good guys don’t always win. In fact, most often they don’t win. Though most of the characters come from the books we all remember from childhood, the stories have been transformed into something darker with twisted origins and endings. The fairytales become more of a mirror of the world that the main character senses that he lives in, and they contain some very adult issues that the he may be struggling with.
“The Book of Lost Things” is the story of David who is about to cross the threshold from child to young adult. While this can usually be a tumultuous time in a young boy’s life, it is made even more difficult by the recent death of his mother after a long battle with what is assumed to be cancer. To add to the intensity of the situation the story is set against the backdrop of World War II London, England during the air raids and the blackouts.
At the outset we find a distraught and compulsive David fighting to keep his mother alive through his routines and rituals. As his mother finally gives in to her disease he and his father grieve and find comfort in each other. David’s grieving process comes to a halt though, when his father begins to find comfort, and even joy, in the company of another woman. As his father’s relationship with the other woman progresses David’s emotional and mental distress comes to head when he begins black out and hears books talking to him. David and his mother always enjoyed reading, and so he finds his only solace in keeping to himself up in his attic room reading his books and the books of a former inhabitant; Jonathan Tulvey.
As David’s emotions continue to get the best of him he begins to see a crooked man creeping in and around his home and hears his mother’s voice calling to him. It is on an occasion of hearing his mother’s voice that he follows it outside during a particularly violent air raid and enters an opening in the garden wall which transfers him to another world. This new world is a dangerous one filled with wolves, lopes (half wolf – half man), trolls, witches, and the crooked man who is referred to as the trickster. With the help of the woodsman, the brave knight Roland, and some very familiar dwarves David will set off to find the king of the realm. The King is said to have a book, called “The Book of Lost Things” and with its help David hopes to bring his mother back to life, restore his family to the way it was, and find his way back to his world.
During this journey David gradually begins to make his ascent into adulthood and he learns that he is not as powerless as he feels and that things are not always what they seem. He also learns that we can’t always save the ones we love and that life will be full of sadness, but there will also be great happiness as well. This book is a wonderfully exciting read, and it expresses how very important our stories are in their ability to comfort, entertain, teach, and help us express ourselves.