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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Department of Book Reports 40: The Book of the Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly (Atria Books, $15.95) Just out in paperback, this quirky gem is about as perfect a book I've ever come across. It is a fairy tale in structure and at its soul.

12-year old David's mother has died and now his father has re-married. Try as he might he can't get along with the stepmother, and escapes into the books his mother had given him. They belonged to his grandfather, who's crayon scribbles are still visible on the pages. Lately as the family situation worsens, the books whisper to him, calling him to escape to their pages, to join them. The tensions are also echoed in the news outside the home, that Germany will be bombing London soon. Late one night, David hears the voices calling him and they are joined by his mother's voice. He goes down to the garden, and in the moonlight sees a crevasse in the stone wall unnoticed before. Suddenly the sky is filled with a burning German bomber that crashes and as flames fill the yard, David crawls into the crack in the wall and is transported to another world.

This world is inhabited by the creatures and characters from his beloved books and it will take all he's learned to survive here. After many quests, David has banished the Loups, the half-man, half-wolf creatures that had been terrorizing the land. Along the way, trolls and harpies and witches who lure small children to their ovens, woodsmen who are brave and honorable, the whole pantheon of Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm have trooped past.

The end, and no I won't give it away, is a sad but satisfying coming of age, the realization that some things from childhood need to put aside, that life indeed is filled with great grief and great happiness.

The Book of Lost Things is also available in a signed and numbered, limited edition, illustrated with woodblock prints. This is fitting for this volume, in keeping with the tradition of early twentieth century bindings like Tenniel's Alice in Wonderland. John graciously presented us with one of the prints on his last tour. They are a thing of beauty.

I also recommend John's private detective series with Charlie Parker, haunting novels set in Maine, John's second home.

The Book of Lost Things is available at Jackson Street Books and Fine Independent Bookstores everywhere.

democommie™™™™®© is chasing around out in the wilds this week. I hope the Loups haven't gotten him. For those of you still looking for turtles, here ya go!

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We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.