Friday, November 18, 2011

Ransom Riggs "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"

Ransom Riggs Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2011)Are you tired of vampires and werewolves?
Do you also love the “odd little book”?
If you love Lemony Snickett or John Connolly or Adam Gopnick (teen fiction series) this is book is definitely for you. It is quirky fantasy/adventure story combined with unique photography, which made the book utterly fascinating, charming and intriguing, especially for a debut novel. The complex/detailed vintage photographs added an unusual level of immersion with the story, with the reader visualising what Jacob is experiencing. The descriptive writing is so evocative that the unusual photographs interspersed numerously throughout the text, while not crucial to the story, certainly provide an additional element of realism (and surrealism!). Especially knowing that they are actual photos. Wouldn’t you love to make up your own story with these? (NB However, they are difficult to read/view on the Kindle.) The detailed prose creates a rich and magical otherworld of peculiar children and monsters that precariously co-exists with our human world which is all too realistically at war.

In the novel, Jacob Portman is an average, seemingly normal teenager, wanting an adventurous life, as described by his colourful, larger than life grandfather throughout his childhood. Jacob is not popular or overly smart and has one best (and only) friend. But with his grandfather death and the horrific monster that plagues his nightmares, Jacob’s world crashes around him. Then on his 16th birthday a book from his grandfather sets him on a voyage of discovery to an orphanage on a small isolated island in Wales. Once there, Jacob understands more than he ever could have believed about his grandfather and himself. His world is now separated into “Before and After”. He stumbles into time loops and uncovers his peculiar talent that transforms his previous reality. Jacob's dark adventure turns from creepy to scary, then to a poignant coming of age. It also foreshadows a sequel!

“My grandfather was the only member of his family to escape Poland before the Second World War broke out. He was twelve years old when his parents sent him into the arms of strangers, putting their youngest son on a train to Britain with nothing more than a suitcase and the clothes on his back. It was a one-way ticket. He never saw his mother or father again, or his older brothers, his cousins, his aunts and uncles. Each one would be dead before his sixteenth birthday, killed by the monsters he had so narrowly escaped. But these weren’t the kind of monsters that had tentacles and rotting skin, the kind a seven year old might be able to wrap his mind around – they were monsters with human faces, in crisp uniforms, marching in lockstep, so banal you don’t recognize them for what they are until it’s too late.”

"The trees parted like a curtain and suddenly there it was, cloaked in fog, looming atop a weed-choked hill. The house. I understood at once why the boys had refused to come.
"My grandfather had described it a hundred times, but in his stories, the house was always a bright, happy place---big and rambling, yes but full of light and laughter. What stood before me now was no refuge from monsters, but a monster itself, staring down from its perch with vacant hunger. Trees burst forth from broken windows and skins of scabrous vine gnawed at the walls like antibodies attacking a virus--as if nature itself had waged war against it---but the house seemed unkillable, resolutely upright despite the wrongness of its angles and the jagged teeth of sky visible through sections of collapsed roof.

‘I gathered up what scrawny courage I had and waded through waist-high weeds to the porch, all broken tile and rotting wood, to peek through a cracked window. All I could make out through the smeared glass were the outlines of furniture, so I knocked on the door and stood back to wait in eerie silence, tracing the shape of Miss Peregrine's letter in my pocket. I'd taken it along in case I needed to prove who I was, but as a minute ticked by, then two, it seemed less and less likely that I would need it."

“…stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize that we were alone? I had always known the sky was full of mysteries – but not until now had I realized how full of them the earth was. I came to a place where the path emerged from the woods. In one direction lay home and everything I knew, unmysterious and ordinary and safe. Except it wasn’t. Not really, Not any more. “