A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
Doskoi Panda (USA: NY) (2011/08/11):
Quirk Books have been cheerfully producing their altered classics, which have been fun, but gimmick-y. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (and the prequel and sequel), The Meowmorphosis, for example, rely on classics of literature for their characters and basic plots then add in elements of horror (Zombies!) or a comedic change of species (Gregor Samsa, insect no more! Now a kitten!) to breathe a different life into the stories. So, to some extent, I was expecting a humourous book in a similar vein as the above. Instead, Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a surprisingly good novel, the only "gimmick-y" feel attached to it is from the photographs, but even they work well, and add creepy corroborative ambiance rather than humour.
This is a strange tale of old pains seeking resolution in a younger generation, secluded and hidden family history finding clarity and at least partial understanding. As a child, Jacob is enamored with his grandfather Abe's stories of his childhood living on an island in Wales with strange children with unique abilities. His grandfather offers proofs - strange old pictures of a levitating girl, or an invisible boy, his empty garments standing in the frame - but as time went on, Jacob began to believe the photos were somehow faked, and that his grandfather was only telling stories. Then his grandfather is violently attacked, and Jacob finds him in time to receive a final enigma - a date and a bizarre clue that appears to have no relation to anything. While holding his grandfather, Jacob sees someone/thing that he thinks may be the killer, though no one quite believes his description of a monster. Eventually, on the strength of his psychiatrist's advice, Jacob and his father go to the island where Abe had lived in an effort to understand the old man, and free Jacob of his anxieties and fears. Then the story begins to unfold.
Riggs' writing is excellent, and the characters are compelling. I especially like that the lead is an emotionally fragile/damaged teenager who lacks the traditional Holden Caulfield brand of extreme cynicism. Nor is he painted a hero - he's more average than anything else, and he feels very plausible, which makes a nice change.
I cheerfully give this about 4 stars, and look forward to seeing further adventures, preferably with Mr. Riggs writing them.
(I would like to add that the book has a nice heft to it (hardback edition), and the paper is impressively heavy.)
Copy of the book was supplied to me by the publisher as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.