Jacob Portman's grandfather has just died in suspicious circumstances. *Very* suspicious circumstances. It seems that Jacob was the only one able to see the monstrous thing lurking in the undergrowth when he found the body, but did he really see it? And what do the nightmares he's started to have mean? Slowly his parents and his psychiatrist manage to convince him that the cause of all this weirdness is a mental breakdown and Jacob eventually starts to recover.
The trouble is, Jacob can't quite forget all the tales his grandfather told him about his childhood. How he was the only one of his family to escape Poland when the Nazis invaded and how he ended up on an island off the the coast of Wales under the care of a certain Miss Peregrine. It seems she ran a home for rather odd children and his grandfather had shown him photos of some of them. One seemed to have levitated, another was lifting a huge rock and in another all you could see was clothes, the indication being that the child was invisible. Jacob is sure the photos are fakes, but are they?
Jacob manages to convince his father, a keen ornithologist, that a holiday (they live in California) on the Welsh island, birdwatching, is a good idea and off the two of them go. They settle into the local pub and Jacob sets off the next day to find the home. It's on the other side of the island and, to his dismay, what Jacob finds is a wreck of a house. It seems it was destroyed by WW2 bombs and all but his grandfather killed, but Jacob is sure he's being watched. Who could it be? The truth, when Jacob eventually gets to the bottom of the mystery, could hardly be more astonishing... or more dangerous.
I think this one might go down as my weirdest book of the year. The photos I mentioned are actually in the book and are, apparently, *real*. The author used them to illustrate his book, I assume with permission. It all makes for rather an odd book which might not be to everyone's taste, but I quite enjoyed it.
The unusual plot is what has made this one popular I think. Although some things are guessable, the way things are arrived at is not, in my opinion, and I found myself both intrigued and admiring of the author's imagination. It's quite some achievement to keep someone as jaundiced as me guessing, especially in the supernatural genre as I've read quite a lot.
There's also quite a nice sense of place. There are several such islands off the coast of Wales, none of which I've been to but have observed from the mainland, and it feels like the author had it fairly spot on. I don't know whether he based his island on any one of them, I suspect it's an amalgam but, whatever, it works.
It's always hard for an American author to write a book set in the UK, and vice versa; it usually shows. In this one I thought the author did a good job though I was thrown quite badly when Miss Peregrine used the word 'knob-head'. That's not a term that would have been around in her time, plus... it's not a word a woman of her generation would use... at least I don't personally think so. I don't even use it now, in the 21st. century. So that threw me, but overall I thought that aspect was pretty well done.
If you like your supernatural fiction to have scary monster type characters then this is the book for you. The sense of menace is always present and you never quite know what's going to happen next. I'm assuming, from the end, that this is going to be a series. I'm quite pleased about that as I'd like to see what happens to the children and am very intrigued by the 'monsters'. A good read and I can understand why it's so popular at the moment.