Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

May 31, 2011

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very peculiar photographs.

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 Miss Peregrine’s children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

Jacob has grown up listening to his grandfather’s tall tales about the island he lived on during the Second World War. These stories about monsters and strange children with powers were a delight to Jacob as a youngster, but as he grew up, he became disillusioned with his grandfather’s flights of fancy. When his grandfather unexpectedly dies, Jacob finds himself drawn back to these stories. He decides to undertake a journey to try and separate the truth from the lies.

There are some fantastic characters in this novel and normally I would take great delight in describing them to you, but in this case I believe the less you know going in, the more I am sure you will enjoy the novel. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a novel all about uncovering secrets and so to divulge too much in a review would be to do it a dis-service.

Setting the majority of the book on a remote Welsh island has given the author the opportunity to capture not only the bleakness, but also the stark beauty of the location. The island can be seen as a haven and a prison at the same time.

Before you even crack open the novel you will no doubt be struck by the strange picture that adorns its cover.  Your brain will be telling you that something just isn’t right. The photo is an old black and white image that shows a little girl in a dress wearing a tiara. At first glance everything appears normal but when you look again you realise that the girl is hovering just off the ground, and you realise this picture is anything but normal. The entire novel feels like this. The author is giving the reader tantalising glimpses of another world.

This debut by Ransom Riggs is a rare treat. It really feels like something special. Every time I thought I had it figured out it defied my expectations and veered off on a completely different tangent.  Part mystery, part supernatural adventure, I was consistently impressed with the author and his world building. There is far more going on than I first assumed.

In addition to the strong writing, I think special mention has to be made of the striking pictures that are used throughout. These vintage photographs help to enhance what is already a gripping story. I was struck by the fact that each image tends to require more than one viewing. It is only when you look again that you pick up on small details that you may have missed the first time around. Looking at the pictures in isolation you can see small hints that there is a larger tale being told but it is only as a companion to the text that the reader gets the full experience.

Last week I heard that 20th Century Fox have picked up the movie rights. I do hope they manage to do this book justice. It has all the hallmarks of a classic and I can imagine that fans will become very protective of this story.  In the books pages lies modern day gothic fairy tale that could translate very well to the big screen, I’d certainly rather watch a movie version of this than Twilight.

Oddly captivating and more than a little bit creepy, I would heartily recommend Miss Peregrine. It is a young adult novel that delights in looking at the world with an ever so slightly skewed view.  Left wide open for a sequel I really do hope that there will be more.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is released by Quirk Books on 7th June 2011.

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