The Book of Lost Things book discussion

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The Book of Lost Things book discussion

jan 28, 2009, 9:39 pm

I know a lot of us have read John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things. At one point there seemed to be many of us reading it near the same time as each other. I thought it would be nice to have a place where we could discuss it. I'm about to dash off somewhere but will be back later to add my own two cents. Let the discussion begin!

Redigerat: jan 28, 2009, 10:31 pm

Just to make things clear...


If you have not yet read the totally awesome book that is The Book of Lost Things do not read this thread because it contains Spoilers!!!

Unfortunately I read this a few months ago and borrowed it from a friend so I don't have a copy to reference... I'll avoid specifics and just stick with my main impressions for now -

This book blew me away. It was easily one of the most unique stories I've ever encountered. I'm one of those people that always guesses the endings of movies and books but one of my favorite things about Connolly's writing is that I feel like he kept me on my toes. It was refreshing to have something so unpredictable but not in a way that things came out of nowhere - everything seemed to fit and the plot twists he chose were ideal while still being surprising.

I have to track down a copy of this so I can write some more....

jan 28, 2009, 9:54 pm

I loved the book. I still have my copy from the library until Feb. 11th =)

It is definately one of my favorite books. I would sometimes guess what would happen, but be completely wrong.

jan 28, 2009, 10:10 pm

Connolly really gave a feel of the original Grimm Fairy Tales in all their gruesome glory. I'm not sure what I can say about it here. Are we assuming spoilers?

jan 28, 2009, 10:15 pm

I can't guarantee to be spoiler-free. You've been warned.

I LOVE this book. I love the fairy tale tie-ins without it being a replica of any specific tale, just kept that flavor.

The imagery of the Crooked Man and all he represents really stuck with me. I thought this was a great representation of the twisted side of all of us, the bit that can be mean and unforgiving and selfish. Especially with David being unsure for so long what to do with him and the creepiness I felt whenever I read parts involving the Crooked Man.

But what hope that David faced him and won! He not only defeats the Crooked Man, but his own twisted nature. To return to his everyday life triumphant and a better person.

I'm sure I have more to say, but it's been too long since I read it and I've loaned out my copy. Perhaps I'll go get a copy from the library tomorrow.

jan 28, 2009, 10:16 pm

I say assume spoilers, JP. Spoilers allows better discussion.

Good point on the gruesome glory. That was something I liked (at the risk of sounding psychotic).

Redigerat: jan 28, 2009, 10:36 pm

Okay, I added a spoiler warning in post 2 so I think we're in the clear. ;)

I thought about waiting for the discussion to get going more to bring this up but when I read the part where David says "His name is brother" Can I just say... Wow. To me that was right up there with some of the lines in Book Thief as totally emotionally charged. I had this "Gasp!" and "Ooooh!" and "Woah..." and "HA!" and "Yes!" and "Awwwww" moment all at once.

Redigerat: jan 29, 2009, 1:37 am

The dwarves and the fact that they were influenced by a neighboring book on the shelf in David's room - hilarious! Of course, Snow White was the one part of the book that made me narrow my eyes in distaste for the handling of an "ism," so I have a love/hate relationship with that particular retelling.

I'm looking forward to a reread of this one; I gobbled it up so quickly the first time that I probably missed a lot of the subtleties.

jan 29, 2009, 1:51 am

I had a great long post and my computer lost it all. :(

I'm frustrated and going to write something new tomorrow.

jan 29, 2009, 8:47 am

K, are you trying to kill me with the suspense?? First on your blog and now here too? Aaahhhhhh!!!

jan 29, 2009, 10:10 am

I loved how the books would talk! I especially liked the books in the psychiatrist's office that would hum when they approved of the doctor's question, but call him names when they didn't like a question!

jan 29, 2009, 12:21 pm

When I was reading the book my friend wanted to read the inside cover. When it says "But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness" my friend thought it was a comparison. And I was like "No, they really do whisper." He was a little confused until I explained a little bit.

I always laughed at the psychiatrist's books.

jan 29, 2009, 4:26 pm

#2 el:
Thanks for putting in the spoiler warning!

#5 --> I love what you have to say about the Crooked Man and what he represents.
#10 -->Heehee! Sorry!

#7 el:
I haven't read The Book Thief yet but that part of the story had a significance to me, too. It really shows how David has grown up and changed. His character development is amazing. It also made me think of my two half-siblings and the very different relationships I have with each. I'm mostly a stranger to my half-brother who shouted, "She's not my sister!" an entire week I spent visiting. My half-sister walked into my work one day asking to use my discount and when they said only spouses and children, replied "I don't see the problem."

#8 laia:
I think the story of Snow White inside this book is one that surprised me most. I haven't read as many different retold versions of this story so much as with other fairy tales. I kept waiting for someone to come along later in the book who David might either send to the dwarves or who might mention meeting Snow White.

#11 jp:
I loved that, too!

I agree with others about this book being very creative and an original story all of its own. You don't expect books to begin the way this one does. It grabbed me immediately. David's interest in books and the life the books took on by speaking and moving about kept me really into this book. The plot and how the book itself ends all rang as unique to me as well.

Some of us have read a lot of books where the main character goes to a different place that seems like another world from their own. I liked how David made his way to this other place. It remained unique from other books I've read but also teased me a bit because I've done something similar in my own writing before with trees being a means of transporting people to some other place.

I liked David's question to the Woodsman about why the Crooked Man chose to put a ribbon around every tree instead of just removing the one. It taught us a little about how the Crooked Man thinks and let us know about his sense of humor. He's a trickster and likes to play games. It said to me that there would be more. I'd already developed the idea that he was someone to fear and stay clear from but it let us know as readers that he would stay just outside the story and taunt David before he would make his real appearance and actually speak with David.

The stories pertaining to each of the fair tales inside are nothing like ones I've encountered in other books before. It's usual for me to feel at least part of a fairy tale is like another I've read so I really liked that this book's stories didn't. It's exciting to read versions that are completely new. Hearing some of them, I kept expecting for some similarity to another and was always pleasantly surprised by something different, however that they might also have something gruesome to them.

I strongly agree with el (#2) about the book keeping you on your toes. It remained exciting during the time David spent in the other place where fairy tales were and seemed impossible to tell which way the story would go. For me this was even as David set out to see the king yet also once he was there and had met him. Sometimes I questioned if David would ever leave that place to return home at all, keeping in mind that I knew he should make a return and see his family again because that would just make sense.

When he went through the vines to follow his mother's voice I had two thoughts strike my mind. One was that David would actually be the only one to get out alive. The other was that he would remain there though not die young inside the place. I think I had been thinking it might even have some door to another place inside so I was amused by all the doors in the hallway on the way up the tower to the sleeping princess.

Something I want to say about this story particularly is that one of my favorite twisted fairy tales is of the sleeping-princess-in-the-tower and I was excited to see David actually enter it and make it beyond the vines and into the castle/tower. In my favorite version those seeking to get inside never make it beyond the vines. (It's actually told from the point of view of a mother to one of those tangled up and injured within the vines as she cares for him.)

More later.

feb 1, 2009, 1:24 pm

El, Yes! That was just excellent.

JP, the talking books were great! Especially in the psychiatrist's office.

K, putting ribbons around every tree was indeed a perfect way to introduce us to the Crooked Man's methods. The gruesome, unique fairy tales in which David found himself was something I really enjoyed. I thought the tales we saw showed us some of David's character. Since the Loups were there because that's what the king was afraid of, so David found himself in tales that were familiar (i.e. he had heard the trolls' riddle before).

I was hooked from the first chapter when David is going through his touching and counting routines. When I was little, I had a system like that. Though I wasn't trying to keep my mother alive, I was for some reason sure that if I did something wrong, I'd be taken by two men that I imagined were always watching my house. Perhaps they were just my version of the Crooked Man. So to see David overcome his pointless habits was an important part of the story to me. I loved the scene where he starts counting, and then remembers the Woodsman and starts to clean and sharpen his blade instead.

Back to rereading. :)

feb 1, 2009, 4:56 pm

#14 lefty:
Some of David's routines reminded me of my early childhood, too, though there was never anyone to represent the Crooked Man. I did have a routine for protecting my mother: I took skipping sidewalk lines and cracks very seriously so she wouldn't get a broken spine or back. I was always very aware of my mom having a bad back. (She has a fused spinal cord, too.)

feb 1, 2009, 10:46 pm

I'm going to start rereading it sometime soon to refresh my memory =)

I just love this book.

feb 4, 2009, 8:36 pm

#15 K, I think one of the things the book did well was take those little kinds of things (like don't step on a crack ideas) that we can remember from childhood and use them in a way that made the reader relate to the book.

Now my grand essay on the deeper reasons for why I'm nuts about this book:

The first thing about the book in general is that it made me cry more than once, including over the routines and especially at the end when David names Georgie as "brother." I'm pretty sure that my first reading, I was barely able to see through tears to read the last chapter that describes how life goes on for David upon returning to the normal world.

And I am not a crier. So for a book to elicit such emotion from me, it has to resonate a lot. I've mentioned how the routines struck a chord in me. Also the book's take on childhood, its innocence, and the innocence lost is huge. It makes me remember how very much I cherish my own childhood and how horrible this world is that so many children don't have a chance to embrace and love being a child.

One of my favorite childhood memories is of finding a lovely copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales while at Grandma's one day and reading the whole book, cover to cover, at her house. I had never heard of the Grimm Brothers before that. And I've loved those bloody, gory stories ever since. So for the book to be about childhood and have unique Grimm-style stories incorporated only deepened my feelings about the whole book.

The Crooked Man as a sort of manifest of the sinful nature was a big part of what made the book for me. I always felt that while David was facing this evil incarnate, he was also facing his own jealousy, pride, and selfishness. The moment when David makes his choice, after watching him grow throughout the book, is such true triumph. And that moment was made better for a reader by the suspense of it -- even with all David had been through, I wasn't positive he'd make the right choice. And then to make the right decision, return to this world, and face sadness and loss anyway. No fairy tale happy ever after. Instead, it's struggle, failure, and death. But it's life. And somehow it is still wonderful.

*deep breath* I think I've properly explained my love for this book now. Or at least, I've explained as well as I am able.

feb 4, 2009, 8:47 pm

Gah! I keep clicking on this thread accidentally but I don't want to read it until I've read the book! *closes eyes and ears* Don't let me see or hear anything! *fumbles blindly for the submit button and stumbles out of the thread*

feb 4, 2009, 9:31 pm

I just started rereading this book today. I had forgotten all of the little things about the book.

I loved the little rant about counting. "Odd numbers were bad, but even numbers were fine, with two, four, and eight being particularly favorable, although he didn't care for six because six was twice three and three was the second part of thirteen and thirteen was very bad indeed" (page 2). And the book isn't all cheery and happy like most fairy tales are. Like when David climbs under his bed, his description of death just sticks with me. "That was what death was like: trapped in a small space with a big weight holding you down for all eternity" (page 8). I feel like that description is really deep. I'm sure most of us have been trapped in a small space before (whether we are under a bed or whatever) and for some reason "eternity" just seems way longer than "forever".

But yet there are still the comical times like when he is describing the poet and says "Maybe he couldn't come up with a monster for the tower that was impressive enough..." and then there is a list of crossed out monsters (page 31).

I love this book. It's wonderful.

feb 4, 2009, 9:47 pm

I found it interesting how they used women to show his struggles. The fat Snow White and the Huntress were good caricatures for his feeling about his stepmother. Even the nightmare monster is female and pregnant. The sleeping lady who becomes vampire-like is a wonderful way of showing how he is coming to terms with the loss of his mother. He hadn't accepted her death, so she becomes Undead. That whole scene was very reminiscent of Dracula for me. When he escapes her and causes her death, she thanks him for releasing her. This is David's way of starting to let her go.

I hope I haven't misinterpreted here. I don't have the book to check my references. I'll have to check it out of the library again.

feb 4, 2009, 9:58 pm

JP, you need to stop hiding behind the silly facade and let out your inner super-intellectual more often ;)

I think that's a really intriguing analysis, and I'll be thinking about it when I re-read. I found the lady in the tower to be the most powerful scene of all the ones where David faces down an enemy. I think that as he journeys and ages, even if only emotionally, he is brought up against increasingly more complex characters, and the encounters build the almost-man he needs to be in order to make the right decisions when the time comes.

feb 4, 2009, 10:13 pm

Good point, JP. Especially about the sleeping lady.

Speaking of the ladies, typically cat-like features are used for attractive women. I found it interesting that feline-ness made the woman in the tower in Roland's tale ugly to the knight.

That last sentence sounds confusing when I read it back to myself, but I can't think of how to improve it. Apologies.

Redigerat: feb 4, 2009, 10:15 pm

21-Yes, exactly! You could tell that that was what was most worrying to the Crooked Man.

ETA: sticking in the post reference

Redigerat: feb 4, 2009, 10:18 pm

Behind my silly facade is another silly facade.

Then behind that, an accountant. Then another silly facade.

ETA Sorry, just ignore me, i'm a bad 'fluence. This is most interesting.

feb 4, 2009, 10:32 pm

I read this book last year, so I have really enjoyed reading your posts as the little details have unfortunately begun to slip away already!

Raise your hand if you love the cover. I was drawn to The Book of Lost Things on the discount table because of that cover. Mine is the blue one with the shiny gold. Ooh.

I also loved that he entered this alternate world through a crack in the garden. I appreciate those little details that make me feel like my ordinary life at any moment could become extraordinary.

LOVE LOVE LOVE this book.

feb 4, 2009, 10:43 pm

Pirate, it was on a discount shelf!? I love the cover too. One of my favorite covers to go with one of my favorite books!

feb 4, 2009, 11:15 pm

Oh yes! I spent a lot of time studying the cover after I finished the book. Whoever did the illustration really had a wonderful sense of the story!

feb 5, 2009, 12:24 pm

17 - Also the book's take on childhood, its innocence, and the innocence lost is huge.

Cool thoughts, lefty, I don't think I really put that together as another meaning for Lost Things until just now.

feb 5, 2009, 1:20 pm

Oh, huzzah, I can be interesting on occasion. Or at least inspire other to be interested. ;)

feb 5, 2009, 3:39 pm

The cover of the English version is by Rob Ryan. A wonderful illustration!
One of the things I loved about this book were all the little tales within it, like the tale of the hunter and her menagerie. Each time he started on a tale I would get completely involved in it.

mar 19, 2009, 1:24 pm

Just making this easier to find for any members who have recently finished the book! :)

mar 19, 2009, 2:08 pm

I finished this awhile ago, but for some reason never got around to posting on this thread! I've enjoyed reading (finally) what everyone else had to say, and don't have too much to add about the story itself.

I loved the appendices, which haven't been mentioned yet. I've always enjoyed appendices, though I couldn't tell you why! In this case I appreciated getting the chance to hear from Connelly in his own words why he chose certain stories and the feelings they gave him as a child, in addition to the histories of the stories themselves. Even more, I liked having the "original" story available, to compare and contrast.

Redigerat: mar 19, 2009, 2:52 pm

#31: Who has finished the book recently? :P

Ok, My thoughts on the book...

Ok first off I really liked the book and thought it was truly original and I consider it has a story that can be interpreted in SO many different ways. At first I was expecting a light book, I didn't expect so many mature themes being treated in the book. When I read the synopsis on the back cover and it mentioned another kingdom I immediately went to Narnia and to the magical world of Harry, I didn't think that a story containing a kid as a principal character would have a paralel world so dark, cruel and gruesome and how wrong I was. But I was pleasantly surprised.

I think I never considered the undertone under the fairy tales I read as a child until I read this book. I never considered that I could get such a different intrepretation from the old fairy tales I read in the past. This book has changed the way I read fairy tales forever and it has taught me the importance of innocence in kids. Nowadays kids are growing up so fast and I think the book really shows that it is important that we as adults guide our kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews through the process of losing their innocence, since the media today bombards the kids with so many adult themes without them knowing it.

I loved how David as a character evolved throughout the book and it is beautiful how he makes the right choice in the end (I also loved the scene when he says "His name"). I also loved how he came to terms with the fact that Death plays a big part in life and is the only thing that for sure will happen to each and every one of us, and still accepted it and learned that we can't let it(Death) stop our day to day life.

I also liked that he was apprehensive about the changes in his life (Rose, Georgie) as we all are in every stage in our life. David is a very human character and I think that's why we can all relate to him in many ways, I mean when he is confronted with changes to his life he starts secluding himself and closes himself to any kind of exterior help, he turns aggressive without realizing it and I think that we all have gone through that at some point in our lives.

I think I will reread this book for many years to come and I will love to discuss it with many of my friends here in Venezuela and with you HEers, too of course. I want to include many more things to my interpretation but none of them come to mind right now....I will make sure to write them down as soon as I remember something I didn't mention above.

Please I would love to hear some feedback.

ETA: #32: I also enjoyed that part a lot too bib!

mar 21, 2009, 12:00 am

*sticks fingers in eyes*
Na, na, na. I'm not reading this! I keep clicking on this thread.

I started the book tonight. Hopefully soon I'll be able to click and read.

jul 7, 2010, 8:28 pm

Coming *VERY* late to this this thread, but I hope that's okay. I just read the book yesterday for the first time. I took it along to jury duty and I'm glad it was such a good read. I didn't care if I had to sit there all day! Turned out I didn't, so I came home and finished it.

Like a lot of you, I really liked the book. I loved the part where David calls him "brother." But I also found it amazing that after everything the king Jonathan did to his sister, she still loved him and was sad that he was in trouble.

I liked JP's comments about the women in the story. That aspect of it, and the fact that all the women David encounters are either saints or whores, was really troubling me, but now I think I get it a little better.

I thought it was so cool the way every person brings their own world into the story with them, with Jonathan bringing the loups and David bringing the tanks and the airplanes.

I'm so glad I finally read this one.

maj 4, 1:09 pm

I just finished rereading this story in preparation for the sequel, The Land of Lost Things, and it was really interesting to read everyone's thoughts about it.

Something that entirely passed me by when first reading it was the subtle references to the Catholic Church. The first occurs when Roland and David shelter in an abandoned church, and David asks Roland, "What do you believe in?" and Roland answers: "'I believe in those whom I love and trust. All else is foolishness. This god is as empty as his church. His followers choose to attribute all of their good fortune to him, but when he ignores their pleas or leaves them to suffer, they say only that he is beyond their understanding and abandon themselves to his will. What kind of god is that?' Roland spoke with such anger and bitterness that David wondered if he had once followed the 'new religion', only to turn his back upon it when something bad happened to him." (pages 181-2)

The second reference is towards the end of the book, as John Connolly fills in the background of the Crooked Man: "The Crooked Man believed that whatever evil lay in men was there from the moment of their conception, and it was only a matter of discovering its nature in a child." (p. 312)

Coming from an Irish author, this adds another dimension to the book, in my opinion.

I certainly believe that more subtleties and interpretations will be discovered on subsequent readings. For now I'm looking forward to starting on the sequel, and I'm in the very fortunate position to attend an evening with the author in my hometown later this month. On the poster he was described as the author of the Charlie Parker series, but I'm hoping that he'll also talk about The Book of Lost Things and The Land of Lost Things, and maybe his collections of short stories, Nocturnes and Night Music, which I've both read.