The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Once upon a time – for that is  how all stories should begin – there was a boy who lost his mother.

Thus begins John Connolly’s amazing story The Book of Lost Things. When I finally turned the last page of this book this morning, I felt that keen sense of satisfaction one feels when they have read an amazing book, a book you know you are going to recommend to everyone. I loved every minute of it.

David is just twelve when his mother dies. An only child, David is devoted to his mother and does everything in his power to keep her alive.

He prayed. He tried to be good, so that she would not be punished for his mistakes….He created a routine, and he tried to keep to that routine because he believed in part that his motger’s fate was linked to the actions he performed.

David is not able to save his mother however; she dies. Soon after, his father remarries and he and his new wife, Rose,  have another son, Georgie. David, still heart-broken over the loss of his mother, resents his father’s wife and his new brother.

This family drama plays against the backdrop of WW2. One night, after a fight with Rose, David escapes to the garden. From the sky, a German bomber falls and to escape, David slips into a crack in the swimming pool cum sunken garden. He finds himself, suddenly, in another world; a world of dark and twisted fairy tales.

I am making the book sound much simpler than it actually is. The Book of Lost Things is a coming-of-age-tale and a hero’s journey, a quest for truth and a horror story all rolled into one. Fairy tales, many familiar, are upended, revealing their slimey and rotten underbellies. David’s youth is slowly taken from him as he must fight, both alone and with companions, for his survival.

David begins his journey as a scared and self-involved adolescent, but as he makes his way towards the castle where the old king apparently has a ‘book of lost things’ which may have the answer to how David can get home, he matures and comes to understand certain truths. It’s an exciting  story; funny in places, creepy in others.

And like Dorothy’s journey to Oz, David soon comes to understand the value of what he has left behind. At journey’s end, he is  a changed person. I was profoundly moved by the book’s final pages.