The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
The Book of Lost Things seemed, at first glance, exactly the right read for me: dark with fairy tales gone wrong. But it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.
Taking place during World War 2, it tells the story of David, a twelve year old boy who recently lost his mother, and finds himself living in an old house, with his father, his stepmother and his newborn stepbrother. David's only comfort are the books that he is constantly reading and that speak to him (and I mean, literately speak). But when he hears the voice of his dead mother calling him, asking him to help her, he embarks in a journey in a fantasy world.
It's an allegorical story, that is quite clear from the beginning. To what the allegory referred to, it took me a while to guess (and some of the nuances I only learnt at the end, when the author explained). It is mostly about coming of age, but told with a bit of nostalgia, so it seemed to me that it was a book for adults (actual adults, to whom the childhood was a happy time long ago, and all the bad parts stopped being quite that bad as memory fades, and worse things happen), about a young boy; and not, like I supposed, a book for teenagers with a bit fantasy and horror.
The story and the fairy tale retellings were nice, but I felt distanced from the main character and his quest. This was probably because I'm an only child, and most of the anger and resentment that David felt for his younger stepbrother were completely lost on me. The book really starts to get good towards the end, when this "brotherly" envy is no longer as important.
Another thing that didn't sit well with me was the moralizing factor of the book. I know fairy tales are meant to taught us morals, and some are more subtle than others in that. But as far as subtlety goes, The Book of Lost Things has none. I knew I was being taught morals, regardless of whether I had them in the first place or not, or of whether I wanted or not. And I didn't want, nor did I need them.
My edition contained a lot of extras, and I think it is safe to say I probably enjoyed the extras more than the book itself. The biggest part of the extras are devoted to the fairy tales in the book, how they relate to the story of David and what he was going through, their history, and finally, the fairy tale itself. So, I guess I enjoyed the deconstruction and analysis of the story more than the story itself.