Saturday, August 25, 2007

"In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected." - Charles Dickens

I just finished John Connelly’s The Book of Lost Things.

I haven’t read any of his other novels – they seem to be mostly thrillers from the look of things on Amazon – but judging from this book, I might be compelled to check out other stuff he’s written.

Maybe. Because it’s not that his writing is so gorgeous or amazing – it’s good, don’t get me wrong – but it’s his story that’s superb. It’s fantastic and creepy and funny and satirical and thoroughly engrossing. It has hints of AS Byatt’s Little Black Book of Stories, with elements of Harry Potter and more than a passing similarity to some Neil Gaiman - parts of Sandman but especially Coraline.

There are overtones of Kirstin Bakis’s incredibly strange (but good) Lives of the Monster Dogs and notes of Carolyn Parkhurst’s disturbing (but good, if weaker) Dogs of Babel. [However, no dogs were harmed in the writing of this post.]

But this palimpsest is neither plagiaristic nor derivative; Connelly makes his creatures and his plots his own. He reworks all the horrors and tragedies and humor into a beautiful and strange little book, complete with a hero with whom one grows increasingly sympathetic a little bit more each page, as he grows and matures, and a lovely and sweet if haunting ending.

I didn’t want it to end.

And here I am again, at loose ends for something to read.
I think I hear Bruno Bettelheim calling...

If you happen to read fairy tales, you will observe that one idea runs from one end of them to the other--the idea that peace and happiness can only exist on some condition. This idea, which is the core of ethics, is the core of the nursery-tales.
~G. K. Chesterton
All Things Considered, 1908

5 comments:

Badger said...

Hmm. Well, this has been on my to-read list (but not my stack, because I don't have a copy yet) for a while.

I'm currently reading and liking Lives of the Monster Dogs, but I didn't really love Dogs of Babel.

I can't wait until the kids go back to school so I can linger at HPB for more than ten freaking minutes.

Suse said...

Have you ever read Joseph Campbell's 'Hero with a 1000 Faces'? He has interesting things to say about fairy tales, folk tales, archetypes and the hero's quest being the central theme of most of these tales.

Poppy Buxom said...

See, there you go, being all smart about scary recent books again, while I re-read another Patrick O'Brian.

I think I'd better take up scrapbooking. I'll do dog pictures, shall I?

Also! I had NO IDEA that G. K. Chesterton invented National Public Radio.

Gina said...

Just requested The Book of Lost Things from the library.

And Poppy just made me laugh out loud.

nutmeg said...

I have picked up that Connelly book a number of times and just needed a little push to buy it....

Lazy Cow and I just finished I, Coriander - early teens book, set in London in 1650's. A bit of a historical fantasy. Really liked the female protagonist and story - made me think a little of Northern Lights.