Thursday, 8 September 2016

Book review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs



I've come very late to the Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children party, but with the film being released at the end of the month I of course had to make sure that I would read the source material before immersing myself in the cinematic experience. The new movie tie-in edition doesn't have the quietly unsettling cover with a black and white image of a young girl wearing period clothes eerily levitating above the ground, but the contents certainly had that 'peculiar' atmosphere running throughout its pages.

Sixteen-year-old Jacob used to believe in the stories his grandfather told him based on a selection of old photos depicting peculiar children. Jacob was convinced that his grandfather's adventures really happened when he was living in a children's home on a faraway island during the Second World War. But as Jacob grew older, he also grew out of stories and while he enjoyed his grandfather's imaginative tales, he could see beyond the poor edit jobs of the photographs and he no longer believed that these were children his grandfather had actually known during his time on the island.

Yet when his grandfather passes away under mysterious circumstances, Jacob finds it difficult to let go of the stories that defined his childhood. He sees a psychiatrist to talk about the strange dreams he started having and eventually he goes to visit the island off the coast of Wales with his father. His parents hope that being in the place where his grandfather hid out for part of the war will finally bring Jacob some closure, but Jacob hopes to find the woman in charge of the children's home and the peculiar people it housed. Only one of them is right, of course, but which is it?

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children has been spoken of much and fondly within the book blogging community ever since its first release back in 2011. It is a book I've been meaning to read for years and when something is being anticipated for so long, it rarely ever lives up to expectations. However, despite wanting to read it for ages I'm not sure what I expected from this novel specifically other than to fall in love with its originality, and my lack of knowledge beyond it focusing on a home filled with peculiar children meant that I didn't get swept up in the hype and inevitable disappointment.

While spending the first chapters of the book somewhere between confused and creeped out, I was soon swept away by Jacob's story and like him started to wonder whether there was an element of truth to his grandfather's tales after all. The insecurity, and disbelief of the adults surrounding Jacob, added to the air of eccentricity that this book was shrouded in.

This novel was quietly unsettling not only for its peculiar characters, but also for the way they were pictured within the pages. Author Ransom Riggs was a collector of old photos long before the book took shape, and the characters and story have actually been inspired by some of the real strange images he has found, which are included within the book for an extra dimension to the story. Some are creepy, others are confusing, but they all have one thing in common: the longer you look at them the stranger they become.

Even the most innocent of photographs can become more mysterious when printed in black and white and has people pictured in old fashioned dress. But with the added colour of Riggs' vivid imagination, they become really fascinating. Disturbing, but fascinating.

I am not entirely sure whether I truly like the characters depicted within the photographs. I am intrigued by their lives and back stories but some of the images are really rather terrifying and it makes it difficult to see beyond that moment frozen in time, though I have to applaud Riggs for his inventiveness both with the inspiration for the novel and the actual storyline unfolding within.

As peculiar as its title, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is strange one for sure, but it's also highly original and completely engrossing and as the first instalment in a series its gripping conclusion has convinced me to pick up the next one.



Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is published by Quirk Books and you can buy the novel from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.

Connect with the author

Website: www.ransomriggs.com

Twitter: @ransomriggs



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