I’d seen this book floating about the Internet for a while, and when I spotted it in a charity bookshop I knew it was coming home with me. Though I must confess, it was the intriguing cover and title that initially piqued my interest.
It is the story of Jacob, a teenager who discovers, under his grandfather’s bed, a secret box of bizarre photographs of unusual or ‘peculiar’ children. When his grandfather dies in a particularly gruesome way, Jacob sets off on an adventure to a remote Welsh island to find out if there is any truth to the photographs and his grandfather’s strange stories. Jacob discovers that there is an unseen world, out of sight of ordinary people, and this discovery will change his life forever.
Ever since I was young, I’ve been attracted to the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kind of story, where a secret magical reality is uncovered; a world within a world that points to the fact that reality is not always as it seems.
In the back pages of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, there is a series of questions in conversation with the author Ransom Riggs, with some interesting insight:
One of the themes of Miss Peregrine, and I think of any novel that involves the discovery of a secret world, is awakening—the protagonist’s awakening to an awesome and wonderful and, in some ways, terrible reality he scarcely could’ve imagined before, but that was right under his nose all along. At the end of Miss Peregrine, Jacob writes that his life was never ordinary, but he ‘had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.’
By far the most interesting thing about this book is the collection of black and white photographs. These are all original ‘found’ images, used to inspire and illustrate the story. The images are strange, often creepy, with unusual compositions, shadows and reflections. They arouse curiosity and I’m afraid, for me, the story just didn’t live up to the expectations inspired by the photographs. It was a good idea, but I was left feeling disappointed.
After a long slow build up and brief climax, the story dwindled to an unsatisfying conclusion. Not that every story must wrap up each loose end, but the open ending here leads onto the next book in the series and I wasn’t seized to rush out and buy the next installment. Although, perhaps you do get to know the characters in more depth in those subsequent stories.
I would be interested to see some more collections of the strange photographs and think they would make an excellent book by themselves.
Emily would like to see the film adapted from this book which comes out later in the year, so we’re looking forward to that. With Tim Burton directing, I am hoping he can make more out of what really had the potential to be a great young adult fantasy story.