The Book of Lost Things has a simple premise: due to deep stresses in a young boy’s life, he starts to imagine strange things such as books that whisper, and dreams of a shadowy figure he calls The Crooked Man. Then one fateful day he is thrown into a place where his boyhood stories come to life, with terrible implications.
This is no quaint, modernized fairy tale. The world that young David finds himself in may be populated with familiar characters, but their actions are often horrifying and all too real in their consequences. There are woodsmen and wolves, and wolves that would be men, white knights with deep secrets, sorcery, even Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – but none of them are what we would expect. And The Crooked Man turns out to be the sinister catalyst in this realized land of make believe.
Not only do David’s stories manifest here, but so do his fears. As he travels towards the city that houses the fading King who may hold the key for the return to his own world, David must make decisions that no child should have to make.
This is definitely NOT a children’s tale, but its simple prose and tacit acceptance of fantastical things do evoke a childlike wonder, keeping the reader rooted in a world where disbelief is easily suspended. Connolly has a gift for being able to write about fantastic things without artifice or a lot of self-examination (something we adults are prone to do constantly), yet he doesn’t “dumb down” David, either. The descriptions he gives us are just enough to allow us to build vivid images in our own imagination, which allows the story to stay on center stage.
The Book of Lost Things will definitely have you paying more attention to those shadowy things that you see for just a second out of the corner of your eye.