My hermit status has been good for quite a bit of reading, so this will be the first of several new book reviews.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs has been calling to me since it was first released, but I resisted mightily. Then I saw a second book had been released, and I figured I needed to see what was up with this monochromatic covered book. I actually did not notice the girl on the cover is floating until I saw her photograph again inside the novel.
Riggs has built a wonderful world, and I enjoyed every minute I got to spend there with these peculiar children. The characters have depth, and reveal themselves slowly. The lush backdrop of Wales is vibrant, and the intriguing storyline captured and held my attention.
I began my adventures with Jacob late in the evening last week. I’d been to a baseball game with friends, and I needed to unwind a bit. Why I thought Jacob and these peculiar children would be something I could put down easily, I don’t know. I actually did the stereotypical, falling asleep with all the lights on, propped up in bed with the book next to me, and when I woke up, I immediately wanted to dive back in.
Jacob’s grandfather tells him stories of peculiar children he grew up with in a home during World War II. These outlandish stories capture Jacob’s attention, and although he questions the validity of a boy with bees living inside of him, a girl who levitates, or an invisible boy, his grandfather says he’s telling the truth. Jacob believes him.
However, as happens all too often, Jacob grows up. His parents convince him these are just stories, and it isn’t real. After his grandfather’s death, Jacob searches to connect with the person who knew him best, with his heritage. He need to find out what inspired these fantastical stories his grandfather insisted were true, so Jacob decides to travel to Wales where this home is located.
Most of us are looking at where we came from, the people and traditions that influenced the way we are raised, and that turns Jacob into someone we can see ourselves in. This fantastic search for these odd children becomes something we can believe in as well, because we’ve all gone looking for something in our family’s history.
In a world in which we’re meant to be more connected through this amazing technology at our fingertips, we feel more adrift. Genealogy studies have skyrocketed, and I think that many of us are looking for an anchor, for roots to hold us steady as the world spins faster and faster around us.
Ransom Riggs’s character is doing the same thing. Jacob’s world is spinning out of control. Decisions about his future are being made for him, and he just needs something to hold on to. Something solid and real and unchanging.
Can he find what he’s looking for in Wales? Does Jacob find the stability he needs in the home his grandfather spoke of so often? Is what he finds better or worse? Do you have to have a clear picture of the past in order to embrace your future? Maybe Hollow City will provide more answers.
One of my favorite things about this book is the photographs. Riggs found these wonderfully peculiar photos that are scattered throughout the novel, and they really enhance the story in a way that illustrations and descriptions can’t do. They add a realism to the story that makes you wonder and want to believe in these odd kids and their world. It adds another layer to an already nuanced and engaging novel.
This quirky, strange and wonderful book turned out to be so much more than the easy, slightly spooky, read I expected. I immediately went out to purchase the next installment, and as much as I’d like to dive in right away, I’m letting Jacob and his world percolate a bit. It isn’t like I’m going far, the final installment of the Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn is sitting on my coffee table now, just waiting for me to finish it. And while it is separated from Jacob’s Wales by a few years, it’s still in Great Britain, so, geographically anyway, I haven’t moved much. (Although, as characters go, Patrick Melrose and Jacob are nearly polar opposites in many ways.)
I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman.
‘Til next time,