Monday 17 October 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

The evenings are certainly drawing in now and the weather here in the UK is turning pretty chilly. They're talking about sleet and snow this week, in the highlands of Scotland, and I suspect it's going to be cold enough for light frosts down here in the SW. Autumn is well and truly with us and Carl's R.I.P. VI challenge is entering its final weeks. How sad! I think I'll probably carry on reading my spooky books to be honest as I've had such a ball with them all. I finished my 7th. book yesterday and it was Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

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.


DesLily said...

I enjoyed most of the book but I didn't like the ending. I didn't like that the father never got to know all about his father or why he was how he was. I know they had to end it that way to have a sequal but to be honest I was more interested in the "mystery about grandpa" being solved so both he and his father knew about granddad then I was about the kids going off to have "adventures"..

Anonymous said...

I have a copy of this that I purchased, I'll admit, for those odd photos. Looking forward to reading it. Glad it worked well for you.

Anonymous said...

This sounds rather thrilling, Cath. Thanks for such a good review. I'll be adding "Miss Pergrine's . . . " to my list.

Cath said...

Pat: Yep... I agree about the father. He was made to seem like a worthless sort of a character whose feelings didn't count much. Which is a shame really.

Kay: It wasn't a perfect book for me but there was enough about it that I liked to make me want to read the sequel whenever it appears.

Lifeonthecutoff: Miss Peregrine is certainly 'different' and quite thrilling in its own way, lots of suspense. A good one to read just to try an unusual sort of book.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

Great, in-depth review,although I am not sure whether you made me want to rush out and read it, or give it a miss altogether.

It sounds as though you didn't really know what to think about the plot either?

I don't mind if there are a series of books about the same characters, but I am bothered if the story carries on, so that you have to wait for the sequel to see what happens next. I have trouble waiting for a week between serial programmes on television and get really frustrated by it.

It has had over 500 reviews on Amazon UK and US combined, with an average rating of 4 out of 5, so it has to have some kind of attraction.

The P.D. James I am reading at the moment is a bit like that, I'm not sure that I am keeping up with the plot all that well, but at least I know there is no sequel, so can only assume that there is a logical ending in the pipeline somewhere.

FleurFisher said...

This book seems to have been everywhere, but I'm pleased to read a report from close to home. I'm still in the library queue, waiting for the single copy that the Cornish Library Service has bought.

Kailana said...

Books can never have nice, clean endings anymore... There always has to be room for a sequel... I will be curious to see what direction the sequel takes.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe it is already time for snow and sleet! I am glad you enjoyed this one. I thought it was a perfect fall book.

Cath said...

Yvonne: Truthfully, I don't really think this would be your kind of thing.

The plot was fine but a few days on I'm not entirely sure the whole concept worked. 'Experimental' I would call it.

I don't really mind a continuing story but am happier with it when all the books are already written so I don't end up having to wait longer than I want for the next bit.

I always think P.D. James is quite a complicated author to read. I remember it being easy to lose track of the plot!

FleurFisher: Devon libraries has twice the number of Cornwall... ie. two. LOL. I had to take mine back today because someone else wants it. Indeed there is probably quite a queue. Look forward to hearing what you think of it.

Kelly: You're so right, very few genre books these days seem to be one-offs... series are very much 'in'. And sometimes I want that because I like the characters, and sometimes I'm not that fussed.

reviewsbylola: It's getting colder by the minute here in the UK. We've been told to expect our first frost on Thursday morning and also told that another hard winter is on the cards. Oh joy.

My Gallery of Worlds said...

I enjoyed your perspective on authors from one country writing about another. I never thought of it that way. Sometimes a constant sense of menace in a book can be taxing for me...I shall have to think on this one now. Great review Cath :D

Cath said...

Kelly: yeah, I don't need a constant sense of menace in everything I read either. Sometimes I just want to feel comfortable with characters I love. :-)

Espana said...

To be honest, when I first started reading "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" I expected a haunting thriller, full of horror and danger. That is not what this book is. Instead, this book is fantasy/adventure combined with a very unique style of photography, which made the book better than I ever thought it would be.