Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. After the reading.

MissPeregrineMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children fulfilled the expectations built up by Gloria’s recommendation.

I started reading it on Friday evening after work and finished it mid-Sunday afternoon. I now have to wait who knows how long for Gloria to finish reading the second book of the series.

big fishAt the beginning of the book I couldn’t help think of the Tim Burton film, Big Fish, the story of a boy turned man who had grown to realise that the stories his father had told him throughout his life were at best exaggerated and more likely complete fantasies. The father’s continued insistence of the truth of his tall tales caused a rift in the relationship.

Miss Peregrine’s starts with the relationship between the Jacob and his grandfather Abe, and like the father in Big Fish, Abe seems to be a teller of tall tales with amazing stories of his early life.

As he enters his teens, Jacob begins to doubt the stories of the “peculiar children” that Abe grew up with in an idyllic house “protected by a wise old bird”; a refuge and safe haven from the monsters he’d escaped from in Europe.

Jacob begins to understand that Abe’s stories about his past are covering dark, very real experiences of a Jewish boy escaping from the Nazis and their east European death camps. But when Jacob himself seems to come face to face with one of his grandfather’s monsters, that understanding, as well as the safe but boring life planned out for him suddenly collapses. Plagued by nightmares he is referred to a psychiatrist to try to bring rationality back to his life.

As part of his road to recovery, he is taken to a small island off the coast of Wales, the location of Abe’s childhood refuge, to find the truth behind the fantasies, and hopefully restore his own sense of reality.

PeregrineThroughout, the book is illustrated with slightly weird historical photos that play a part in Jacob’s discovery of the truth, not only about his grandfather’s past, but also about his own life.

The author used genuine historical photos as inspiration for the book’s characters, especially the “peculiar children” of the title. In a short interview at the end of the book he tells us how he’d wondered who the people in the photos were “- but the photos were old and anonymous and there was no way to know. So I thought: If I can’t know the real stories, I’ll make them up.”

He cleverly spins these imaginative biographies into a compelling, intriguing story with elements of history, fantasy, horror and adventure that are grounded in a familiar, everyday world. He takes us beyond the edge of the familiar and recognisable and shines light onto things overlooked and ignored; those things we push away to maintain the security we find in predictable rationality.

After starting this book I found that the memories it stirred of a Tim Burton film had a degree of spookiness (insert brief excerpt of Twilight Zone theme). The cover of the book announces it is “SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE”, what it doesn’t say is that Tim Burton is behind that project.

That doesn’t surprise me.

Miss_Peregrine_Film_Poster

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. (prelude)

MissPeregrineCoverIt seems like I’ll be starting this book over the weekend. I bought it a couple of weeks ago but haven’t been able to read it yet because Gloria took possession of it and wouldn’t put it down. She has now called me at work to say she’s reached the end and she’s impatient for me to read it so she can talk to me about it.

The fact that Gloria feels that way about a book is significant. In the years I’ve known her, the books she’s read could probably be counted on the fingers of one and a half hands. The books she’s REALLY been enthusiastic about would make up the half hand.

I’m not sure why I bought it. I’d never heard of the book before seeing it in a local shop.
Maybe I was falling for the warned about trap of judging it by the cover – or it might have been the compelling collection of old, unusual photos scattered throughout its pages – or maybe the general appearance of the binding and the book’s physical weight made it seem more impressive than the majority of books on the shelf…

More than an impressive cover, I can be seduced by a weighty book and tend to think a book’s weight can reflect the quality of its content. No matter how many times that’s been proven wrong, the idea remains unshakeable.

So this weekend it seems like I’ll be putting aside my current non-fiction diet to make a start on the book Gloria found so compelling.