The Book of Lost Things | John Connolly

Usually the expression, “coming-of-age” steers me away from a book. With the exception of King’s The Body (later: Stand By Me), coming-of-age stories smack of Hallmark made-for-tv-style drivel. So why did I buy this book from an author I had never heard of?

  • It was a store employee’s featured pick at The World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto.
  • The cover design is striking.
  • The synopsis reminded me of Ende’s brilliant The Neverending Story (okay, so I’ve previously enjoyed two coming-of-age stories).

Let me cut to the chase: this book is a lot of fun. It follows the life of a boy in difficult circumstances who escapes to another world where the fairy-tales he loves take on a live of their own (yet all governed by the boy’s own imagination). Familiar stories like The Beauty and the Beast and Snow White are re-imagined in dark and (at times) hilarious ways.

While there’s lots to praise about this tale, perhaps the best is Connolly’s treatment of evil. Fairy-tales have been so sanitized (and Disneyfied), it was encouraging to read a story where evil was frighting and brutal. Connolly doesn’t pander to the squeamish.

I should note that my Washington Square Press trade paperback edition includes over 100 pages of appendix, where Connolly offers a few words about the various fairy-tales explored in the book along with the complete text from The Brothers Grimm and other sources. This is an interesting way to revisit the various themes explored in the book.

Coming-of-age or not, this meta-fairy tale is well worth your time.

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