Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups

"Once upon a time--
for that is how all stories should begin."
--John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things


Genre: Adult Fairy Tale, Fantasy
Publisher:  Atria, 339 pages
Release Date: November 7th, 2006
Source: Bought
Previous Books in Series: Standalone

Goodreads Description

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.(

I begin this review with tears in my eyes because this book summarized in one word is enchanting. There are few books that you can hear the voice of narration within in the first few pages of the text and in this book I felt it in the first sentence. *see above quote* This book has the feel of a narration that yearns to be read aloud. While I deem some part massively inappropriate for a younger audience, and this book is an adult fiction, I would take my own liberties in censoring it just so I could read this aloud to future generations. The premise of this story is about David, a 12 year old boy who recently lost his mother to an illness, his father begins a relationship shortly (very shortly) after her death, they have a new baby and David is left feeling excluded. Because of this the books in his new room in his new house begin to speak to him and he eventually is led by his mother’s voice to a crack in the wall of a garden to a magical land that forces him to fight his deepest fears in order to get home. Along the way he meets friends both familiar and foreign to him and has to defeat the evil forces at bay.

Summary aside this book is about books, and stories, and fairy tales. Like I said before this story is written beautifully. Connolly writes this story in your typical fairy tale fashion but with so many different perspectives on fairy tales of old that you can’t help but smile when you see your favorite characters mentioned and grimace when they turn out to be the opposite of what you’ve always believed, re: Snow White. But its awesome! I LOVE fairy tales. I am a Disney die hard, I will always believe every girl young and old is a princess, every beginning starts with ‘Once Upon a Time’ and ending concludes with “And They Lived Happily Ever After.” It is a part of who I am, I am not ashamed. With that said, Snow White as a fat, lazy, obnoxious oaf and Little Red Riding Hood as a woman who loves bestiality was a shock to say the least but it fit so well with the story I never minded. I could go on and on about every character that pops up but I digress.

Connolly’s view of these deconstructed fairy tales ties so directly with what I feel was the main message of this book that it is nothing short of brilliance. We grow up reading fairy tales and idolize the heroes and that is great…however real life cannot always play out like a fairy tale. The knight in shining armor might not always win, the beautiful princess may not be rescued by Prince Charming, and sometimes the Evil Stepmother does win. I feel that is what Connolly is trying to say when he writes a different version of the these well known tales. People become corrupted, we do have evil that lurks inside of us but we need to be able to rise above it and when we do that we do get our happy ending. I think this is also what Connolly is trying to say. Another favorite quote from the book opens up the novel before the story even begins and it is this:

“Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood that in the truth that is taught by life”
–Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)

I believe this quote resonates the deeper meaning of Connolly’s tale. Real life sucks…sometimes. If we based our knowledge solely on real life experiences we would all lead much more horrible and unsatisfying lives because let’s face it, have you watched the news lately? Its depressing. People need something to believe in, to hope for, to fight for. Fairy tales do this for us. They let us know that there can be a happily ever after but you need to be a good person and makes the right choices to get there and I think Connolly is also saying this, at least this is my interpretation. David starts out as a very understandably hurt little boy. But with all journeys David finds himself maturing and making choices he never would have made in the beginning of the story. And it isn’t a huge jump for him, its all gradual which makes his story so much more believable. He is a character that you root for not only because you want him to succeed and mature in his views, but I think we can all recognize in ourselves some of the negativity that David starts off with. We all have felt excluded, sad, pissed off at the world but the point is to take a step back see the big picture. David sees this eventually and makes the right choice at the end.

Lastly, this book is about a young boy who loves books. I looooove reading about people who love reading. Call me crazy, its something I can relate to. My final favorite quote of the book is this:

“Instead, he would talk to them of stories and books, and explain to them how stories wanted to be told and books wanted to be read, and how everything they ever needed to know about life and the land of which he wrote, or about any land or realms that they could imagine, was contained in books.
And some of the children understood, and some did not.”

I love this and truly believe in it. This was a perfect way to end this book and a real shout-out to the true readers of the world. Some people get it, some people don’t. Sad but true. While this story contained many differences in the meat of it about characters we have grown up with and loved, the main point of it stays true to course; It begins with ‘Once Upon a Time’ (as all stories should) and ends with a happily ever after…

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