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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

July 28, 2011

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here – one of whom was his own grandfather – were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

 

It’s not very often you come across something as unique and special as this book. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is Ransom Riggs’ debut novel. It feels like a work of art in your hands – a beautifully produced hardback with nice thick pages that smell divine, and a secret signature hidden under the cover of the book. It takes a book like this to make you realise just how much an e-book pales in comparison, and how important it is to keep the printed book alive.

Of course the real beauty of the book lies in the real vintage photography that are scattered throughout the story. Each photograph, which Riggs has carefully selected from other people’s private collections, is referenced to in the story. At first the photographs are merely something Jacob’s Grandpa shows him as a child, as he tells Jacob some rather magical stories. However, all too soon Jacob realises that the people in these photos really did exist, and every person in these photos becomes a character in the story. From the boy who can lift a huge boulder with one hand, to a girl levitating off the ground, these people slowly come to life for Jacob as he realises that not everything his Grandpa told him is made-up.

These photographs are extremely haunting and at times quite frightening. Usually it is left up to you, the reader, to create an author’s characters in your mind, but here you are shown exactly how these people look, and something about it makes it all seem far too real. I have to admit, whilst reading this at home one night alone, with the lights down low, I found myself looking up every few minutes, peering into the darkest corners of the room just in case…

Of course, the photographs aren’t the only thing that makes this book so brilliant. Without Ransom Riggs’ storytelling, the people in these photographs wouldn’t be able to truly come to life. I love the way Riggs has used these photographs to create his own story. It’s often a great tool to use in writing as a photograph can spark so much creativity in your mind as you start to imagine who these people are and what their story could be, the same way you might do if you were sat in a café, people-watching, like I often like to do. But these photographs never feel like a ‘tool’ for Riggs. They are so well integrated into the story that it almost feels as though the story really was written first, and then the photographs were found.

It’s hard to say much about the story than what has already been said in the blurb, without giving too much away. When I first looked at this book I instantly thought; this has to be a ghost story, and one thing I will say is that it’s not. There is something far more supernatural going on here, and you probably won’t see it coming, or be able to guess. And that is as it should be with any great mystery. Throughout the story, there is a real sense of the reader being taken on this journey with Jacob, to discover the truth of his Grandpa’s past and the people he grew up with. There is nothing better than feeling like you are a part of a character’s journey, that you are discovering these things just as they are. Ultimately it is down to Riggs’ masterful storytelling that really pulls you in – the photographs just pull you in that little bit deeper.

It was announced recently that 20th Century Fox have bought the film rights to this book, so there is no doubt that it’s receiving much more attention than was perhaps anticipated. I also feel like it ended in such a way that there could potentially be a sequel written in the future. I have no idea whether Riggs planned on writing this as a stand-alone novel, or whether his envisioned it as part of a series, but there is certainly an opportunity here to continue Jacob’s story, and I would certainly welcome this.

I have become so excited by this book that I have bought it for a friend, and even went on to order more copies for our Waterstone’s, where I work, and added it to my fiction recommends display. It’s the best feeling in the world when you’ve read a good book and you’re eager to share it with others, and I am bursting with hope that this novel will sell well, as no book deserves it more.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys supernatural fiction, or has an appreciation for beautiful books and vintage photography. It really is different to anything I’ve read for quite some time, and I know it will stay with me for many, many years to come.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is published by Quirk Books and is out on sale now.

Thanks goes to Amy at Turn The Page for writing such a brilliant review of this book, and making me want to read it! You can read her review by clicking here.

Rating: 

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. July 28, 2011 21:33

    Sold this to someone today! It does look amazing, but.. film rights? I mean, does anyone actually come up with any ideas in Hollywood any more? Pretty much every book seems to be turning into a film these days- and those that don’t lend themselves to films are TV serieses! Gosh it makes me mad.

    (reading The Sisters Brothers atm- I think that’d make a pretty good film, and certainly a better film than True Grit- not that I’m blaming the Cohen Brothers… actually, yes, I am blaming them. But only blaming them for choosing True Grit).

    • July 28, 2011 21:44

      YAY! You sold my recommend George! I’m gonna woop your ass in this competition….even if you are winning right now! :p But yes….SO many books are becoming films now it is a little depressing and I don’t think it will be as good as the book…because it never is! It’s hard to think of films these days that haven’t come from books! But I am glad to hear this book is selling! That makes me happy, because it deserves it!

      I do want to read The Sisters Brothers…I’ll be waiting for your thoughts when you’re done! Which may not be a while considering I’m off for 2 weeks next week. I still need to read True Grit! But I’ve seen the film now… blah. It was okaaay.

  2. July 29, 2011 07:43

    Some books simply shouldn’t be made into movies and I believe this is one of them, it will lose all the magic during the transformation.

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