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.