Sunday, 9 October 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I really don't know what I was expecting with this book. Something creepy, Gothic and disturbing I suppose, in keeping with the bizzare and rather wonderful photograph on the front cover. But Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children turned out to be less of a spooky spinechiller and more of a thrilling adventure yarn with a mysterious trail to follow, a band of very strange friends, and some hideous monsters for them to battle.

Jacob is a teenage boy living out an ordinary life, trying to learn the family business and spending time with his beloved grandfather. Grandpa has always been a little strange, and Jacob grew up on his tall tales of the friends he said he had as a child. He even had a collection of photographs of these children doing fantastic things; a little girl levitating, a boy surrounded by a swarm of bees, a freakishly strong boy holding a giant boulder in one hand. As Jacob gets older he comes to realise that this was all his grandfather's fantasy and that the photos must have been clever fakes...or were they?

I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just say that one day something happens to change Jacob's life forever. He finds himself with a trail to follow, set by his grandfather, that will bring him into contact with some extraordinary people and some fantastic adventures. This is a good old-fashioned yarn, of the sort I would have adored as a teen and still enjoyed as an adult.

The author does a great job of keeping the mystery going, so there's always a new secret to discover and the whole book has a lovely air of thrilling expectancy about it. My one niggle is that some of the British dialogue doesn't ring true (particularly the bits supposedly spoken by Welsh villagers). It's a pet peeve of mine, but I do wish American editors would get some Brits to check these things through before publishing.

I wish I'd got this as a printed book instead of an ebook though, because it's the extraordinary collection of photographs that lift this book out of the everyday and make it something special. According to the author's note at the end, they are all genuine vintage photos, only a few of which have undergone a little photoshop tinkering to fit the story. They are so striking, I found myself staring at many of them and wondering who the real people in the pictures had been. I wonder whether the author already knew what story he was going to tell before he found the pictures, or whether he wove a story around the photos he'd already found. Probably a bit of both.

The ending of the novel makes it clear there's likely to be a sequel, and I shall be very intrigued to see what happens next and what new selection of photographs we are to be treated to. Four stars.

2 comments:

  1. I have heard a lot about this book and it sounds like it is living up to the hype. I will be sure to get the print book...thanks for the heads up! Great review!

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  2. Miss Peregrine's is more dark fantasy then horror - it reminded me a little of some of Guillermo del Toro 's movies, such as Pan's Labyrinth. Lots of weird imagery and foreboding atmosphere. It makes for entertaining reading.

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