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The Book of Lost Things

June 2, 2008

These stories were very old, as old as people, and they had survived because they were very powerful indeed. These were the tales that echoed in the head long after the books that contained them were cast aside. They were both an escape from reality and an alternative reality themselves. They were so old, and so strange, that they found a kind of existence independent of the pages they occupied. The world of the old tales existed parallel to ours, as David’s mother had once told him, but sometimes the wall separating the two became so thin and brittle that the two worlds started to blend into each other.

That was when the trouble started. That was when the bad things came.

It takes great skill to set the tone of a book from the onset, and John Connolly, author of The Book of Lost Things, has it down pat. Right from the get-go you know that you are in for one creepy read.

A NovelThe protagonist, 12 year old David, has just lost his mother who has been ill. He was close to his mom and both of them shared a passion for the written word. As his mother lay dying, David would read aloud the stories of fairy tales and folk tales, dragons and knights that she loved so much.

Once his mother is gone, David safeguards her beloved books. The books though, don’t want to let David be and he begins to hear them whispering to him. He also starts having  “episodes” where he loses consciousness and has visions of another world unlike his own. His visions increase after moving from London to the countryside after his father re-marries and his step-mother gives birth to a baby boy Georgie. David grieves for his Mother and resents his new family. He takes the bedroom upstairs, where there are bookshelves full of old books. Again, the books begin to call to David, and he starts to hear his mother’s voice, calling to him to save her. Suddenly David is propelled from the world he is familiar with into an entire new world filled with trolls, wolves that are half man, fairy tale creatures the worst villain of all, the Crooked Man. David now is on a quest to the King, who is the keeper of The Book of Lost Things, in which he can find the answers to all he is looking for. Interspersed throughout his journey, David encounters many fairy tale creatures that he has read about, although are far more sinister than any fictional character. He begins to grow as the book goes on and changes from an angry, sad child to a caring, strong young man.

There is so much to say about this powerful book, and I am afraid that I could never do it justice. This is more than a fairy tale, but a wonderful coming of age story, a scary bed-time story and fantastic tale all wrapped up in one neat package. One thing I can say though is that this book has one of the most frightening, sinister fictional characters ever to grace the page – the Crooked Man. Just the description of his appearance gives me goosebumps:

The figure was slightly hunched, as thought it had become so used to sneaking about that its body had contorted, the spine curving, the arms like twisted branches, the fingers clutching, ready to snatch at whatever it saw. Its nose was narrow and hooked, an it wore a crooked hat upon its head.


It seemed to be debating with itself as to what to do next, for David saw its left hand move to its pointed chin and stroke it softly. While it was thinking, it glanced over its shoulder and down toward the woods below. It saw David and froze for an instant before dropping to the floor, but in that moment David saw coal black eyes set in a pale face so long and thin that it seems to have been stretched on a rack. Its mouth was very wide, and its lips were very, very dark, like old sour wine.

Even the book cover has a sinister feel to it. The blood red color, vines of black thorns which twine themselves around the typography, the innocent boy reading, the dark figure to the left of the word “the” bent over a cane. The book cover evokes the feel of the book and while I’ve seen other covers for this same book, none of them encompass the essence of what lurks inside quite like this one. It is pure graphic genius.  

I expected The Book of Lost Things was going to be an eerie read after I saw a review for it over at Bloggin’ ’bout Books, but I sure wasn’t expecting how emotionally involved I became with the characters and spent the last two chapters of the book in tears. It was just one of those novels that once you put down, you wish you hadn’t read it so you could experience it all over again.  In an interview at the back of The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly writes “there is a kind of perfect unity to The Book of Lost Things. It begins as it should begin, and it ends exactly how it should end – for me at least. I’ve written the best book that I could possibly write at this stage, being the person and writer that I am. I can live with what I’ve done here.” I agree Mr. Connolly, I agree.

Want to see more great reviews of The Book of Lost Things? Just check out Stuff as Dreams are Made on, Things Mean a Lot and Dewey. This was one more book I’ve read for Carl’s Once Upon a Time Challenge



36 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2008 3:09 pm

    Great review! Looks like another one to add to the ever-expanding wishlist!

    Also, FYI, if you cut out all of the stuff after the first period in the last part of the image name, you can get rid of the amazon arrow and/or white border space. For example, this cover would just end in /51ZagWy6orL.jpg

  2. June 2, 2008 3:41 pm

    I read this last year and really enjoyed it, I love getting books which remind you of what reading was like as a child. Your right about the book cover it was perfect, very German fairytaleesque

  3. June 2, 2008 3:45 pm

    Hey Stephanie, that sounds great. Can I borrow that one??

    I checked some of the other reviews you linked too and they seem just as enthusiastic as you.

  4. June 2, 2008 4:44 pm

    Fyreflybooks – thanks for the pointer! I’ll have to remember that one the next time I write a review!

    Nicole – do you really have to ask? Of course you can borrow it!

  5. June 2, 2008 6:07 pm

    I didn’t know what to expect when I read this last year…but I loved it!!

  6. June 2, 2008 6:55 pm

    This book sounds great. I will have to pick up a copy. Thanks for the review.

  7. bookchronicle permalink
    June 2, 2008 7:41 pm

    Too funny – I just picked this book up today and decided I really ought to get around to reading it! Great review.

  8. June 2, 2008 7:48 pm

    Great review! I had a great time reading this… it’s enchanting yet so creepy!

  9. June 2, 2008 8:54 pm

    What age would you recommend this to a kid? YA? Although I guess that is subjective to the kid and maturity level. Not that my daughter is anywhere near reading it. 😉

    Is it a YA book?

  10. June 2, 2008 9:47 pm

    I didn’t feel like I could do it justice, either. All your adjectives are so fitting: creepy, powerful, eerie. There was such a strong tone set in this book.

  11. June 3, 2008 6:58 am

    Julie – This book is considered adult fiction, although it won the 2007 Alex Award, which honors ten adult books that appeal to teen readers. Because of it’s gruesome nature, I would think that a child younger than a teenager is not it’s target audience.

  12. June 3, 2008 11:51 am

    I am reading this right now! Will post my review later this week.

  13. June 3, 2008 6:25 pm

    Sounds like one I need to read this fall! Great review, as always.

    BTW, I love your previous post with all your scrapbook pics. The one of your two daughters (when you were in China) is absolutely priceless. Great expressions on both faces!!!

  14. June 4, 2008 7:10 am

    Thanks for linking to my review! This one really weirded me out, but there’s no doubt that it’s well written. I love all the quotes about books and reading in it, too.

    Fyrefly – Great tip!

  15. June 4, 2008 10:07 am

    Great review! I’m looking forward to reading this but I’m saving it for this year’s R.I.P. Challenge.
    Also, loved your scrapbooking pages. I’ve never tried it but it looks fun. And your girls are adorable.

  16. June 5, 2008 8:13 am

    Tanabata – this book will be perfect for the RIP challenge (I too have started my book pile in anticipation of this fall)!

  17. June 5, 2008 1:06 pm

    Oooh, that description is definitely shudder-inducing!

  18. June 5, 2008 5:04 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂 It’s such a great book. One of my favourite reads of last year!

  19. June 5, 2008 6:31 pm

    Yep, this book was pretty awesome. My cover was blue, though. This must be a later copy, or something.

  20. June 5, 2008 9:05 pm

    I just posted a review of this, too. This was a great book!

  21. June 11, 2008 8:05 am

    I have had this book on my list for a while but recently read a mixed review. Glad to see you liked it–I love a good book that you put down wanting to pick it immediately back up! 🙂

  22. June 15, 2008 12:25 pm

    This book sounds great. Thank you for the lovely review!

  23. June 15, 2008 3:06 pm

    I’ll keep this one in mind. It sounds like it would be a good choice if there’s a R.I.P. challenge this fall…

  24. June 15, 2008 7:18 pm

    Okay, I keep seeing reviews of this book everywhere. I think the gods of reading are trying to tell me something.
    Visiting from the Bookworms’ Carnival 🙂

  25. June 15, 2008 8:00 pm

    I have the blue cover. Darn! I really like the red one better! I didn’t know there were different colors.

    (Jumped here from the Bookworms Carnival)

  26. June 16, 2008 12:28 am

    This is one of my favorite books from last year as well and this is such a great review! It actually made me want to read it again. And again. But I don’t think I can handle David’s emotions right now 🙂

    I’ll link this post to my take on the book last year, if you don’t mind.

  27. June 16, 2008 5:13 pm

    I’ll have to definitely give that book another go. I tried to read it awhile back and just couldn’t get into it but it was probably timing. Thanks for the review!

  28. bookroomreviews permalink
    June 16, 2008 8:07 pm

    I have only heard good things about this book. I was drawn to the picture in your header. Is that your daughter? How precious:)

  29. June 17, 2008 4:17 am

    Great review! I really loved this book – it was so cleverly written to bring in all the old fairy tales but give them a twist. I’ll be re-reading this again one day 🙂

  30. June 19, 2008 6:55 pm

    I’m not sure I’m interested in an “eerie” read, but it sure is sounds interesting: particularly combining “a wonderful coming of age story, a scary bed-time story and fantastic tale”. Wow, sounds well done.

  31. February 19, 2009 5:54 pm

    I agree on the utter creepiness of the Crooked Man. You know, though, this is a book that I couldn’t totally get into, and I never figured out why. I mean, I love fairy tales! I think it’s that I never felt like I fully got into the protagonist’s head, so I was reading for the plot, but not really because I cared much about his character.


  1. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly » The Hidden Side of a Leaf
  2. The Book of Lost Things — by John Connolly « Book Escape
  3. John Connolly - The Book of Lost Things « Fyrefly’s Book Blog
  4. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly | Books of Mee
  5. Once Upon A Bookshelf » Blog Archive » The Book of Lost Things

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