Review by Kelly Jarvis: The Land of Lost Things by John Connolly
In The Land of Lost Things, John Connolly returns to the redemptive power of words and stories that he explored in his earlier novel The Book of Lost Things. Although the new novel is a standalone tale, it does reference characters and places from the older novel. I read The Book of Lost Things years ago and was thrilled to discover Connolly’s new treatment of how stories and words can save our lives.
The Book of Lost Things tells the story of David, a child searching for his lost mother, and The Land of Lost Things tells the story of Ceres, a mother searching for her lost child. Ceres’ daughter Phoebe has fallen into a coma after a devastating accident, and the book opens with Ceres’ attempts to come to terms with losing her daughter. Ceres moves her comatose child away from the city to a country facility, and it is here that she discovers the haunted house of the elderly writer who composed The Book of Lost Things. Ceres enters the forest, discovering another realm populated by wolves and woodsmen. She must navigate this new land in an attempt to restore her daughter to her.
Connolly’s writing is for readers who love complicated plots with stories inside of stories. In addition to the main narrative, the book relays fairy tales that Ceres shares with her daughter, stories that she channels, and folklore she remembers from her own father, who worked as an amateur folklorist and a university librarian. Each chapter begins with a word from an ancient language followed by its definition, so as readers make their way through the text, they learn that Uhtceare is Old English for “lying awake before dawn too worried to sleep” and Teasgal is Gaelic for “a wind that sings”. Connolly’s story celebrates the power of language and proposes that “You can destroy a book. You can burn it, you can tear it to pieces and scatter them to the four winds, you can soak it until it reverts back to pulp or the ink turns the water black, but you can’t destroy the content of the book, or the idea of the book, not as long as there are those who care, who remember.” The Land of Lost Things beautifully explores the intimate relationship between readers and writers and between fiction and life.
You can purchase the book here.
Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.
Kelly Jarvis is the Special Projects Writer and Contributing Editor for The Fairy Tale Magazine. Her work has appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer, Blue Heron Review, Forget-Me-Not Press, Mermaids Monthly, The Chamber Magazine, and Mothers of Enchantment: New Tales of Fairy Godmothers. She teaches at Central Connecticut State University.