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January 16, 2017

Book Review || The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

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I had been wanting to read a novel by John Connolly for quite some time and 'The Book of Lost Things' has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while. You all know I am a fan of fairy tale retellings, and this darker look at old favourites is interesting and intriguing.

The novel at its heart is about the redemptive and healing qualities of books and stories for people in general and while the narrative moves a little slowly, whimsical details and interesting characters remedy this somewhat.

David, who has a very special connection to books, loses his mother from sickness and finds himself feeling unwelcome in his father's new relationship with Rose, which becomes more constrained when a baby brother is born. They come to live in Rose's house and it turns out this house has its own mysterious history connected to Rose's brother Jonathan, who also loved fairy tales. It doesn't help that David feels a strange presence is watching him.

There are gloomy and sombre twists and changes to the fairy tales we are familiar with, which provide interesting juxtapositions to David's state of mind. The evil creatures of the forest are wolves that are changing into men, giant worms that suck their victims dry, a Huntress who experiments with her catches, a more evil and sadistic Rumplestiltskin-type character, and even an enchantress pretending to be Sleeping Beauty but who is really a vampire.

There is even the hint of a homosexual character in the Knight who comes to David's rescue: Roland is looking for his friend Raphael and enlists David's help. Raphael breaks the trope of the homosexual man and his masculinity forms part of one of the novel's themes: masculinity, or becoming a man. David, upon entering the world, is still a child reeling from his mother's death and utterly jealous of his brother and Rose's relationship with his father. He does not wish to face his reality, made clear in his frequent loss of consciousness in the real world and so it is easy for him to believe that the world of fairy tales will give him what he needs. Through his adventure, however, he comes to accept his reality. Roland and the Woodcutter refer to this as becoming a man, which I find a very limiting idea since David is really growing up and his acceptance of his true life is not what makes a man.

One of the biggest questions one is left with after completing the novel is whether or not all of David's experiences were merely part of an extended fugue state, similar to but longer than his bouts of unconsciousness. While David's true life is long, he returns to the world of fairy tales at the end, and is greeted by the Woodcutter as the child he was when he first entered, seeing himself reflected in the Woodcutter's eyes as though he was his father. The Woodcutter tells him most people return at the end. So did David experience it all, or dream it all as he lay unconscious?

Only you can decide. If you read the book. :)

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