John Connolly

The Book of Lost Things

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The Book of Lost Things Summary

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The Book of Lost Things is a poignant story about loss and acceptance. It follows the events affecting a young boy named David, during wartime. When David’s mother falls ill and eventually dies, he must attempt to come to terms with her death before the pain of loss clouds his outlook on life. David must decide if he is willing to live with loss or create excuses and foster hatred for others in an effort to cope with the pain of loss.

When David’s mother falls ill, he tries to think of anything and everything to save her. In time, however, she must go to a hospital for the terminally ill. Though he and his father visit her constantly, she eventually dies. The trip to the hospital is long and exhausting, and the emotional toll of her illness is also tumultuous. When David’s mother dies, he feels a sense of relief, though he immediately regrets the feeling, replacing it instead with guilt.

The story begins during wartime in London, when most children are sent to the countryside for their safety. David, however, remains in London with his father. Yet when his mother dies, his father eventually remarries a short while later. The new woman’s name is Rose. She was a nurse the father met while in the hospital. The family eventually moves to Rose’s house in the country, but David despises the relationship between his father and Rose. David’s life takes another turn when his father and Rose have a son, Georgie. David does not like having Georgie as a half-brother. For starters, the child takes up a lot of time and attention from the parents. Eventually, David finds himself consumed with hatred for his half-brother.

One day David hears books talking to him. He then finds out that one of the books belonged to Rose’s uncle, Jonathan. Jonathan disappeared when he was a child, along with an adopted girl named Anna. David wants to know more about the fate of these children. He then hears his mother’s voice calling to him from a garden behind Rose’s house. When he rushes to the garden, he finds a crack in the garden wall. Entering the space, David is surprised to step out of a hollow tree and find himself in a magical land he eventually calls Elsewhere.

Still dealing with the loss of his mother, and having heard her voice, David thinks that his mother must be stuck in Elsewhere and that she needs his help in getting free. As he explores the new land, he meets a man named the Woodsman. It is the Woodsman who informs David that the king of the land has a magical book called The Book of Lost Things, and that this book might help answer his questions. As David travels to find the king, he and the Woodsman are attacked by creatures called Loups. Loups are half wolf and half man, and as the two try to fend off the creatures, they find themselves trapped at a bridge guarded by trolls. David eventually destroys the bridge, thus trapping the Woodsman, whom David imagines has died from his actions.

More magical creatures are introduced as David journeys on to find the king of Elsewhere, including a woman who uses magical salve to switch the heads of children and animals. He also meets Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, though they are strikingly different than the fairytale most people have come to know. David also meets a knight called Roland. It is this knight who teaches David how to defend himself from other magical creatures in Elsewhere. The Crooked Man is another character David encounters. The Crooked Man follows David along his journey, and even helps him make it to the king’s castle.

When David finally meets the king, he finds that the king is none other than Jonathan, Rose’s relative who disappeared as a child. Moreover, David finds that the Crooked Man feeds off the anger of children who are jealous of their friends and younger siblings. Though the Crooked Man tries to pledge his allegiance to David, David helps to destroy the Crooked Man. The Woodsman also returns at this time and helps David to come to terms with his mother’s death. He then helps David return home, though tells him that he can always return to Elsewhere.

David then wakes up in a hospital with Rose nearby. He now has a new love and appreciation for Rose and Georgie. He has a deeper understanding of life, and knows that life is filled with pain as well as happiness. He has several tragic events befall him later on in life, including the death of Georgie during another war, the death of his wife and child, and other deaths. He becomes an accomplished writer in time, and when he is an old man, returns to Elsewhere right before his death.

The Book of Lost Things is a poignant tale about loss and coping mechanisms. It shows how people attempt to blame others, even causing harm to others, just to feel better about themselves. David must decide if he will live his life full of these coping mechanisms, or if he will come to terms with loss. By the end of the novel, he has had to deal with a number of devastating losses. Yet David has grown through his journey into Elsewhere. His coming-of-age tale points to the need for growth and community, and the need to accept life’s realities instead of letting trauma fester inside and taint one’s soul with self-destructive hatred and melancholy.