2008: 146. The Book of Lost Things

“Once upon a time - for that is how all stories should begin - there was a boy who lost his mother.”

The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly

Lately I have been reading quite a few books that fall into the category of what I would call “modern fantasy” - not the sword and sandal type stuff that I find sort of tiresome, but books that start in a modern or realistic world and add a fantastic element.  Neil Gaiman is the most obvious example, and this book, which was my book club’s latest read,* is another, though I didn’t realize it when I recommended it - it was just one of those books I had heard of, and thought the group might like.  Anyway, I quite enjoyed it - it turns out that I rather like the genre, at least the stuff I have read lately.

The story is about a bookish young boy named David, whose mother dies,** and whose father remarries a woman who lives in the country.  They have a child, and David feels like an outsider - turning to his books as  his only source of comfort.  However, his reading starts to turn mysterious - he hears the books talking to him, he sees a strange figure at his bedroom window (a bedroom once owned by a young boy - an uncle of his stepmother - who disappeared years ago), and then, one night when he is out for a walk, he waltzes into another world.  The bulk of the book then is about his adventures in this strange land, and how he journeys from child to man.  It could be extremely cheesy, but it works, because Connolly is having so much fun with his writing.  David’s adventures are a melange of familiar fairy tales, with a fractured element (my favorite was the dreadful shrew of a Snow White and the communist seven dwarfs), and they waiver between funny, creepy and poignant.  What really makes the story for me, is the way that I was sucked into believing it true, and how it wasn’t until the end that it struck me that the whole incident could be read as a metaphor or allegory for David’s life.  And the end, which was about fathers and sons made me cry on the bus (though, again, super pregnant lady here), and I am always impressed by any book that makes me care enough to cry.

I hope my book club does meet soon - there is a lot to talk about here, I think, from the fairy tale influences to the question of what really happened, to the underlying message of the importance of love (especially of our families).  

*Although we haven’t met to talk about it and have no immediate plans to do so - my having a baby seems to have thrown a wrench into our book clubbin’.

**Ok, and I know I was super super pregnant when I read this book, but this part totally devastated me! I was practically in tears.

Date/Place Completed: 9/29/08; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Book Club

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017