Monday, March 05, 2007

The weekend's reading

Finished John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things during an afternoon stint at the library on Saturday. I'd put it aside the middle of last month in order to focus on David Copperfield and because I thought it would make an excellent selection for Carl's upcoming Fairy Tale/Fantasy challenge. The challenge doesn't begin until March 21, however, so, for me, it will have to remain an outlier and one I recommend others include on their official list.

The Book of Lost Things is at heart a quest story. Young David, still mourning the death of his mother and bitterly resentful of his new stepmother and baby brother who take much of the attention when his father--a code-breaker during WWII--happens to be at home, is lured into an alternative world after hearing his mother's voice call to him for rescue. This alternative world is a dark reflection of the fairy tales he's partial to and part of the pleasure of reading about this world is in recognizing the original stories that Connolly has added his kinks and twists to. Suffice it to say, if you prefer a Disneyfied-spin on the Brothers Grimm, you're going be to be very uncomfortable reading this book.

I managed to somehow get through my son's dragon phase without realizing that "wyrm" was the word usually used for such in medieval lit; the connection was made for me after reading A.S. Byatt's "The Thing in the Forest," whose creature was certainly more worm-like than dragony. There is a similar beast in The Book of Lost Things (which quite handily and gruesomely deals with some German tanks that have made their way into this alternative world), and I've found it curious that both my exposures to the legendary wyrms of Britain have come in contemporary stories dealing with children who have been sent from London during WWII to avoid the bombing.

Yesterday I started Dan Simmons' The Terror. I bought this one for L., since he has a soft spot for Arctic exploration, but since he's been complaining about his vision lately, I doubt he'll attempt this behemouth until after his next eye exam and new set of glasses.

Based on Sir John Franklin's 1845 attempt to find the Northwest Passage, the books begins this way:

Captain Crozier comes up on deck to find his ship under attack by celestial ghosts. Above him--above Terror--shimmering folds of light lunge but then quckly withdraw like the colourful arms of aggressive but ultimately uncertain spectres. Ectoplasmic skeletal fingers extend toward the ship, open, prepare to grasp, and pull back.

Temperatures are at negative 50 degrees and the HMS Terror and her sister ship Erebus have been lodged in the ice within the Arctic Circle for more than a year. Low on food and morale, the men who aren't yet dead are being stalked by something out on the ice that may prove to be supernatural.

So far very good.


  1. The Book of Lost Things sounds like one I may need for Carl's challenge! Like you, I've already delved into my will have to add more for when the challenge begins. Thanks, Susan!

  2. The Terror sounds interesting. Tell us what you think when you finish it.

    Oh yeah, you might like the Reading & Book Forum.

  3. I've been meaning to read The Book of Lost Things but now I think I will Save it for Carl's challenge. As for Terror, my husband wants it but you make it sound so good I think I want it now too!

  4. I rarely read this sort of book--fairy tale/fantasy-ish books, but this one sounds good. I am looking forward to Carl's challenge, as it will give me a chance to read outside my comfort zone. I will definitely need help with book ideas, though. The Terror sounds good as well (more up my alley)--I like books set on ships!

  5. Thanks for the link, Scott. I love finding new reading forums.

    I think The Book of Lost Things will appeal to all three of you, Jenclair, Stefanie and Danielle. And yes, if you enjoy the Hornblowers or the Aubrey/Maturin series, or any seafaring book at all, then The Terror should be just the ticket.

  6. I keep seeing Book of Lost Things on the "new" book shelf at the library and wasn't too sure about it. Now, I know it's going on my list.

  7. Anonymous9:37 PM

    The Book of Lost Things was in the "library of books" Atria sent. Now I know it's a keeper. (*smile*) I'll get to it... sooner or later. Thanks for the recommendation.

    I'm knee-deep in David Copperfield and Gombrich's History of Art. Then there are all of the partials (i.e., partly read friends with bookmarks, index cards, and Post It tabs poking out of them). Aiyee!


  8. Iliana, I got the Connolly from the library. I thought about buying it a time or two, but since it wasn't quite the thing that I normally read, I stopped myself.

    Oh, the partial reads. I need to make that another category in my "theme reading" post. And the "dip intos but never read in their entirety" crowd.

    Hope you enjoy all your weeks with David Copperfield, MFS. We're glad you convinced us to take it down off the shelf and give it another try (I think my son got it when he was 12 and only managed two pages then).

  9. Anonymous8:53 AM

    Franklin's expedition: Thanks for a blogging topic! And that reminds me, I need to put Roland Huntford's The Last Place on Earth on the Amazon wish list.


  10. Margaret, that is the coolest picture! Thank you so much for posting about it.

  11. The Terror is on my wishlist, as I'm quite enamoured with tales about the Arctic as well. Has your husband read Arctic Dreams or The Navigator of New York? (the latter is set in Newfoundland, New York and the Arctic)

  12. No he hasn't. I'll tell him he ought to take a look at them once he gets his new glasses. Thanks for the tip, Lesley.

  13. As it's International Polar Year, I've been looking at some reading to do with the poles. Terror sounds like a great choice! Another good one is Andrea Barrett's The Voyage of the Narwhal. It's a well written historical novel that also takes place in NY and the Arctic.

  14. Yes, it is. I read that one several years back. I love all the science Barrett puts into her stories.


"I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time."

Sherman Alexie cancels book tour for memoir about his mother.