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4.2 out of 5 stars182
4.2 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 14 February 2007
This is a lovely book. It takes teenager David on an adventure through a fantasy world and a journey along the path from childhood to adulthood. In some ways it reads like a reworking of Wizard of Oz, except that the different aspects of David's personality are integrated in one person (unlike Dorothy's, which appear externally - in the scarecrow, the lion and the tin man). All the same, David has to develop and learn to use cunning/brains (when he solves the riddle of the two bridges), strength and courage (when he defeats the monster in the village), and, hardest of all, love for his step family, before he can defeat his enemies and return home. There are references to various fairy tales and nursery rhymes - some of them twisted and quite dark.

I've marked it down to 4 stars because, for me at least, it reads like teen fiction - it's basically a thriller given a fantasy setting and a little bit of a message - and this book doesn't match up to the best of fantasy fiction (eg the Narnia books, or Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials Trilogy). The material is rich enough to carry so much more. For instance we could have been asked to question (just a little) our notions of right and wrong - ie is it always "good" to kill our enemies? Without wanting to give the end away, it would have been nice to have been left with a question mark over whether the ending was really "morally right".
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on 16 September 2010
I loved this book. That doesn't seem a strong enough statement somehow. This book is in my top 5 ever and I'm an avid reader. It's a beautiful fairytale for grown ups full of magic and mystery. The story follows a young boy whose father has remarried and had a baby with his new wife and how this young boy deals with the loss of his beloved mother and jealousy towards his new step-brother. What follows is a beautiful tale of adventure and acceptance as the boy's stepbrother is stolen away by a mysterious figure and his journey to rescue him. I really don't want to give too much away but I highly suggest you read it. A perfect book to curl up with on a winters day with plenty of hot chocolate.
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on 15 September 2006
Once again this author has hit the mark of great story telling. This is a story of a young boy(David) who loses his mother and has to adjust to life without her. His father eventually re-marries and they are soon joined by a new half brother. David, feeling left out retreats into a world of books and stories.

When they all move into his stepmothers house, things become rather strange.

David finds a hole in the garden wall which transports him to a magical fairy tale like land of werewolves,trolls and the evil crooked man.

I don't want to divulge too much of the plot, so I'll just say that this story is a fantastic mix of fairy tale and horror. Much like the Brothers Grimm film, this story contains a collection of the famous fairy tales all coming together in the fast paced adventure. That is the only similarity as 'The Book of Lost Things'was a far supperior story.

Not knowing the premise of this book, I thought it would be another action/thriller type book like his others. I have enjoyed all of J.C.'s books, but this one has been the most amazing story yet. It may have been very different to the Charlie Parker books, but it still shared the same dark tone that all his books follow.

This was one of those books I had a hard time putting down.
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In this stand-alone novel Connolly has adapted or taken extracts from a number of classical fairy tales to create one story, which in common with The Chronicles of Narnia takes place in Second World War England and involves a secret portal to a magical mystery land with battles of its own being fought and involving half-human, half-animal hybrids. While on the one hand it's tempting to suggest that this is purely an indulgence on the author's part, there's no denying that it's well written and the imagery and atmosphere he creates - so often a Connolly strength - is probably his best to date because he has given himself free rein to fantasise as much as he wants to.

In my own paperback copy, an unusual supplement to an already unusual book includes an `interview' with Connolly in which he is asked such questions as why he wrote the tale at all. I won't spoil things here, but I do find it curious that the novelist finds a need to justify the writing of a story and to publish those reasons in the book itself. Not that it matters, it takes a little while adjusting to the nature of the story after the very different style of the Charlie `Bird' Parker series but once the reader becomes familiar with it, it makes for entertaining reading. Despite its fairy-tale underpinnings, however, this is not a story for young children; there is no bad language at any time but some of the violence, while pretty tame compared to traditional Connolly fare, would make for an uncomfortable bedtime story for your seven-year-old daughter! But at least Connolly has eradicated the gun from one of his novels as a means of killing; he has always delved into the supernatural world even when writing modern day crime fiction, but in the past even some of the ghosts he created killed with pistols or rifles, which I found at odds with the theme. Not in this book, though. Central character David has nothing more sophisticated than a sword at his side and this is perfectly in keeping with the strange world he inhabits for much of this tale.

Another frequent idiosyncrasy throughout several of Connolly's novels is to give the bad guy a title of some kind, in TBOLT he's The Crooked Man who is very loosely adapted from the Brothers Grimm's dwarf creation Rumpelstiltskin. And with central character David having a conversation with a woman who turns out to be dead, we are reminded once again that there are more similarities to the Bird series than initially meets the eye. Still left-field by most reckonings, and certainly not crime fiction, it's an adult fairy tale that will satisfy existing Connolly fans and for those of you lucky enough not to know, there's a wonderful series of novels by the same author that you really should try if you want a credible mixture of contemporary fiction and the supernatural.
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on 20 November 2008
This has to be the best book I have read in a long time. An daring read which was impossible to put down. The story of a grieving boy entering the world of fairytales which are not quite as we remember them from childhood. At times gruesome, at other times comic I loved his book and was sad to finish it. Will I ever find a book quite like this one? I dont know but I am going to keep looking! I think anyone who was ever a child will love this book!!!!!!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 12 January 2015
4.5 stars

This reminded me a little of Patrick Ness' YA novel on grief, A Monster Calls, both books featuring children coping with the loss of a mother to illness.

But this takes a different path, that into fairy tales. David's mother is dead, and his own grief becomes that much more the bitter when his father quite quickly finds comfort with a new woman, and a new baby (and new home) swiftly follows. Taking refuge in books of stories and myths, one confusing day a World War II plane seems to crash right on top of David (or does it?) and he awakens in a kingdom very much like that from one of his fairy stories. He thinks he hears his mother calling... And then he hears the wolves... And there may also be someone else following David...

I wasn't sure at all at the start if I would finish this. But when David begins his journey in the dream-like world, I found myself engrossed. It turned into a wonderful fairytale quest adventure, with very similar themes, structures and characters to favourite and traditional stories. The man-like wolves are quite terrifying, the Crooked Man equally so, and David's growth through his struggles appealingly written. I did find the regular entry into his trials of helpful sidekicks and companions a little convenient (but is it all just a dream anyway? you are never sure!), but loved identifying the fairy tales that each character represented as we went along.

The Snow White segment is hilarious, reminded me of Dahl's poem. Some of the plot feels Arthurian, with quests and revenge. A delicious romp in a dark kingdom.

I enjoyed how the plot reconciled itself, and the ending was poignant and sad. Quite Grimm. And beautiful.

One negative for me was the 150-page additional material, with original fairy stories and notes. I recently studied them and didn't bother reading through. Some people may find them informative however if they want more information on the Grimm stories and their variations.

I originally tried this on audiobook but found it hard to keep up with the narrative, the paper version is much easier to follow.

A lovely read, a wonderful spin on the classic fairy tales. It's one I see some children have enjoyed reading, and maybe they will. As an adult, I certainly enjoyed it too.
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on 4 January 2015
The Book of Lost Things is magnificent; it pleases on so many levels. It’s an adventure, a quest, an examination of the psyche of childhood. It’s a labyrinthine journey through the worlds and the landscapes of fairy tale. With more twists than you’d find on a stick of barley sugar on the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel.

With a book so overflowing with riches, it ‘s difficult to know where to start. Maybe I’ll start at the end. No, there are no spoilers. I wouldn’t do that to anyone, especially not to someone who has yet to read it. I’m starting at the end because my reaction demonstrates the power of this book. I cried. Yes, I cried when I read the last chapter. It was sad, realistic, poignant and anything but sugar coated. A truly fitting ending for an extraordinary book.

The Book of Lost Things introduces us to David who is 12. His mother is dying and David, helpless, does everything he can to keep her alive. In his description of David’s rituals of touching and counting, John Connolly offers a most sensitive and enlightening explanation of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and its triggers. He gets inside the head of a small boy who thinks his mother died because he didn’t do enough to keep her alive.

Left alone David and his father cope as best they can. At least they have each other. Then Rose comes along. Then the baby. David, trying to come to terms with the death of his mother, watches bewildered and hurt as his father transfers his attention to his new family. “Something tore inside him every time he saw his father holding the new arrival.” Increasingly miserable and angry, David retreats into his own world. A world where books talk among themselves. A world which has a parallel in which a missing boy ‘passed unseen through David’s world, unaware that he shared his bed each night with a stranger.’

As his fury and grief mount, David’s thinks constantly of his mother until a day comes when he hears her voice. Her voice calling to him, begging him to rescue her. Summoning him to the sunken garden. As her voice, becomes ever more insistent he is forced to overcome his fear of the place and to follow. What happens next is yet another demonstration of John Connolly’s skill as he welds reality to unreality. The seeds of the eventual denouement are sown; they are there, but as light as those on dandelion clock.

From now on we are in the world of the brothers Grimm and of myth, legend and fairy tale. A world of monsters and harpies, of trolls and dwarves. Of wicked stepmothers and weak kings. Of sleeping princesses and enchanted castles. Peopled with woodsmen and hunters and bears and monsters. Above all, it is the world of the crooked man. The crooked man who steals children who are never seen again. The crooked man who wants something David can give him. Who will stop at nothing until he gets it.

As David battles to reach the king whom, he hopes, can help him he is aided along the way by a variety of characters. The woodsman, the dwarves – eventually – and Roland, of Childe Roland, among others. All tell him stories that would be familiar but that they have, at the author’s hands, undergone subtle and not so subtle transformations. To say much more would be to spoil the surprise, and the fun. Suffice to say that the way John Connolly re-imagines these tales is masterful. Both in the wealth of his imaginings but also in the way he relates them to the psyche of a twelve year old who has lost his mother and who is struggling with his feelings towards his father, stepfather and stepbrother.

There is tension aplenty in this book. It also brims over with wit and humour. David, for instance, loses patience with the woodsman who was ‘fine for decapitating wolves and giving unwanted advice’ but who was falling short at keeping up with developments in the kingdom. We also have trolls who suffer from severe acne. A prince who ‘ponces in like a big, perfumed tea cosy.’ A Snow White who is fat and a group of quarrelsome, Marxist dwarves. Though to quote David’s own words ‘for a group of homicidal, class obsessed small people, they were really rather fun.” Why Marxist dwarves? The explanation is ingenious and worth waiting for.

Beautiful language, intricate, colourful and disturbing imaginings. Wit, fun and learning. You’ll find them all between the covers of this book, but there’s more. When you’ve finished you’ll find an interview with the author, in which he gives a very personal and enlightening account of his approach to the book. There follows a commentary on each of the fairy tales, in the sequence in which they appear. Each one is linked to a relevant passage in the book and references modern films and books inspired by the tales. Finally we have one of the traditional versions of the story.

As I read them I was tempted to regret that I hadn’t read them first, to remind myself of some of the stories I had forgotten. On reflection, though, I’m glad I didn’t. The book is complete in itself. The additions are akin to a literary liqueur, something to linger with and enjoy with the coffee – afterwards.
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on 11 September 2013
It's this middle of World War II, and confined to a country house with his new stepmother and even newer younger brother, David is full of hurt, anger and jealousy. In his attic room, he seeks comfort in a collection of old books. As he becomes consumed with the world between their pages, David starts to feel a strange affinity to the boy who lived in his room before.

When the events of one fateful day conspire, David finds himself in a place where nothing is as it seems, struggling to find a way to get home in a strange, threatening kingdom of twisted fairytales. His path is peppered with obstacles, and he is forced to face his innermost fears, overcome death and battle his nightmares before he can finally come face to face with an aging king who seems destined to lead the kingdom into ruin.

The Book of Lost things is essentially a fairytale - but it's certainly not a fairytale you'd want to read to small children at night. Bringing in elements of a whole host of different fairytales, Connolly twists and manipulates stories for his own purposes, spinning motives and intentions and traditional plotlines into an intricate web of characters and incidents.

In fact, the author builds a whole new world with such rich detail and flair that I almost started to believe in its existence myself. The Crooked Man really was scary, a truly brilliant villain with wicked intentions. The truth, when it was finally revealed, was as terrifying as any nightmare come to life in the darkness. This is not a book where everyone has a happy ending. All of the characters we come across, from the Woodcutter to Snow White, have been given their own jaded and fractured back-stories that have been woven perfectly into the narrative.

Ultimately, it's the perfect book for anyone looking for a dose of escapism or pure fantasy with a twist. It's spooky and mesmerising, and it takes a completely different direction to anything else out there.
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on 28 November 2011
The main protagonist is 12 year old David; he has just lost his mother who has been ill. After having his world turned upside down by his father's remarriage and the birth of his brother, David retreats more and more into his books which he shared a great love for with his mother. After a particularly upsetting day for David he manages to find himself in a land of fairy-tales after stepping through a hole in the garden. He then has to navigate himself through this world in order to somehow find his way back and he starts to lose his innocence as he does so.

I tried to describe this book several times to my husband while reading it and in the end I realised that it reminded me of the films 'Pans Labyrinth', 'The Brothers Grimm' and 'The Never Ending Story' but far freakier and twisted.

This book is well written and structured as the author packs in the tiny details which makes the world David has entered come alive while still maintaining the fast pace of the book. There is some strong imagery throughout and most of the book creates some vivid scenes. The creatures David encounters are recognisable from old fairy-tales you would have read as a child but reworked to become more frightening and sinister. There is also however some light relief in places and David's encounter with the seven dwarfs (who seem hell bent on ridding themselves of Snow White) made me laugh out loud.

I admit that I lapped up the grim tales within the story with great glee, I revelled in the whole atmosphere of the book and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
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on 31 May 2011
I found "The Book of Lost Things" to be a work of genius in places but flawed in others so overall I can't give it more that three stars. Ultimately, although the book will stay in my mind, I was left with an unsatisfied feeling and a sense that it is a rather fragmented work.

The overall idea is a clever one - a pubescent boy in wartime England comes to terms with the death of his mother and the subsequent changes to his family as well as the natural process of growing up via a quest-like journey through his sub/unconscious, represented by a macabre and uneasy fairytale world. The author shows great imagination in the construction of this world and its inhabitants, and the way that David moves from one world into another. I found the first part of the book and the evocation of wartime England very well-written and credible, along with David's slight personality disorders and inner world.

Where the book fell apart for me was its fragmented nature. Topics and themes touched on in the real world are not really picked up on or resolved later. The idea that David's father was working at Bletchley House (?) on codes and ciphers was thrown in but then not followed up. We never do find out what really happened to the missing children - OK, I didn't need it spelled out, but there could have been more clues or pointers here. Then there are the odd tales thrown in from various narrators, which are mainly slightly twisted variants of well-known fairytales. I just wasn't taken with most of these - for adults, Angela Carter did this in a more masterful way and for young children, a book like "Tom Trueheart" is great at playing with the well-known characters and plots. There were also interludes, such as the encounter with the communist dwarves that, while funny in an almost Pythonesque way, seemed out of place in the story.

I didn't think that the last section, where the original tales are re-printed together with the author's commentary, really added anything. I read through, hoping to catch an insight into the author's obviously creative and brilliant mind, but didn't. Instead, these sections seemed partly plodding, partly patronising, like "A Level Notes".

Having been fairly critical, I do have to say that the book was certainly unusual, at times compelling and there was enough there to interest me in other books that the author has written.
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