Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Friday, November 5, 2010

"The Book of Lost Things" by John Connolly

I really wanted to love this book. I expected to love it. I knew it was just my thing. A boy is sucked into a world of all the fairy tales he knows so well, only to find the reality of the stories is darker and more twisted than he ever suspected. What's not to love?

Well, I'm not quite sure, but . . . something. I considered waiting to write about this book until after I'd figured out what my problem was, but procrastination is my archnemesis.

This is not to say that I didn't like the book. I liked the fresh take on the old stories (and such a satisfying number of them were incorporated), the pervasive sense of enchantment and danger, even the comic relief in the form of oppressed communist dwarfs. Some of the stories were new to me, including my favorite--Roland's Second Tale, of Alexander and the Lady. I loved the way the book is written (the choice of words, their timeless quality). The language is perfect fairy tale fare, just like Shannon Hale's (albeit in a decidedly darker manner). But throughout the entire book I remained a spectator. I didn't expect to be literally sucked in, the way the main character was, but I did hope for more absorption of the figurative kind.

Oh, maybe that's why I didn't love it.

I (of course) can't remember where I first heard about this book, beyond the fact that it was from a fellow book blogger. The one thing that stuck in my mind was the blogger's insistence that this book is not for children. I find myself ambivalent about that distinction. While I do agree that it is too grisly for my seven-year-old book lover (worse than the brothers Grimm, by more than mere degrees), it's not aimed at adults as clearly as Gregory Maguire's fairy tale retellings. There is something childish in the feel of the story, and I don't think it would be inappropriate or too frightening for a young teenager.

I've never liked reading more than one book at a time, though I've gotten used to it since the Anna Karenina debacle. But just in the past few days I have decided it's best to stick with wildly different genres. Reading The Book of Lost Things concurrently with Bel Ami? OK. Reading it in conjunction with listening to Brisingr? Not OK. At times I had trouble remembering who was dealing with a castle which is "said to move with the cycles of the moon" and who just rescued Katrina from Helgrind. Throw in bedtime readings of The Neverending Story and I've really gone down the rabbit hole. Next thing I know, Eragon will be riding Falkor to the castle of the old king with the Loups in pursuit.

Parting shot: the book should have ended three pages before it did, with this perfect-for-an-ending paragraph: "David . . . became a writer and he wrote a book. He called it The Book of Lost Things, and the book that you are holding is the book that he wrote. And when children would ask him if it was true, he would tell them that, yes, it was true, or as true as anything in this world can be, for that was how he remembered it." If only the Woodsman hadn't told David that most people return in the end.


Kristi said...

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it as much as you'd hoped. I don't know about you, but I feel guilty when I don't like a book that I feel I should like or if I don't like a book that everyone else loves. I hate that feeling. I hope you're enjoying Bel Ami.

Kate said...

I love the perfect last paragraph. I've heard of this book as well, and I'm also hard pressed to remember where. Maybe your amnesia is catching! ;)

Stephanie said...

It's a shame this was a let-down. It sounds so promising.

Kathy said...

Kristi--for me, more than a feeling of guilt it's a feeling of did I miss something/what's wrong with me. :) Although I do feel guilty writing on my blog about not especially liking a book. I don't want to discourage anyone from reading a book (well, very few of them, anyway); and, if the author is still living, I worry about hurting their feelings!

Kate--haha! Let's hope not. ;) Even with my blog, onto which I am uploading my brain, I can't remember everything I want to about books.

Stephanie--maybe it wouldn't be a let-down for you! Plus, I am working on a theory that I might call Kathy's Law of Expectations. It could be applied to either books or movies, and it would explain why it is so easy for high expectations to end in disappointment, or for low expectations to be exceeded. In fact, maybe my post has lowered your expectations enough that you will find you love this book. :)

Lesa said...

That is funny reading it at the same time as Brisingr-- I frequently read more than one book at a time--different genres does make it easier. Still sounds like one I will read of these days.

Kathy said...

May it exceed your lowered expectations. :)

Greg Zimmerman said...

Hehe - I promise, promise, promise I hadn't seen this before my post today. So, please, don't take it personally. But it IS a funny coincidence! ;)

Nice review of this book, though! I'd heard rumblings about it, but it doesn't exactly sound like my cup'o'tea.

Cheers to you!

Kathy said...

I believe you. Especially since it wasn't an exact quote. ;)

Yeah, I don't think you would like this book. Not even if you really wanted to . . . :)