Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Hardcover: 352 pages
eBook: 361 pages (Portrait view)
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: June 7, 2011
Cover Photograph: Courtesy of Yefim Tovbis
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children…
Home for Peculiar Children…
The title suggests to me that its pages have to be filled with all things gothic, dark, melancholy, and, for lack of a better word, peculiar. The cover image of a girl floating six inches off the ground grabbed my attention adding an air of mystery and implying that something profound and extraordinary was about to happen. All I had to do was open the book to find out what made these particular children so different. So, I wasted no time in doing just that and found myself wholly fascinated and entertained by the story. Ransom Riggs has created a world of imagination filled with mystery, time loops, magic, monsters, and yes, some very uncommon “children.” Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is an exceptional novel and I found myself entranced by Riggs’s voice and captivated by the notion that something ominous was about to happen every time I turned a page. It’s a remarkable story that blends a murder mystery, a quest motif, and a coming-of-age tale with the supernatural to create a masterful piece of lasting fantasy. The story is intelligent and engrossing and filled with old sepia-toned photographs that depict unfamiliar and titillating characters situated in not-quite-natural poses or evocative scenes. My curiosity became piqued the moment I saw them. The photos were strange but somehow made sense. They begged examination. They filled gaps. They complimented the story. And they helped to explain that “peculiar spirits” still walk the Earth.
Jacob, a 16 year old American, has listened to his grandfather’s tall-tales for years but attributes the chilling stories of cunning monsters and strange characters to his grandfather’s unusual experience as a World War II orphan. (After losing his family to the Nazis Grandpa Abe was shipped off to England where he found himself a ward of Miss Peregrine on the tiny island of Cairnholm off the coast of Wales.) One day Jacob receives a panicked, confused call from his grandfather and rushing off to find out what’s happened he discovers his grandfather bleeding and dying in the woods behind his home. His last words, “September 3rd, 1940…. Emerson… Find the bird in the loop…” are a mystery to Jacob but as his grandfather’s life fades away his flashlight reveals the hideous face of a monster lurking in the woods. Jacob realizes that his grandfather’s stories were not fabrications after all and he knows that his world will never be the same. When he finds a letter written to his grandfather by Miss Peregrine Jacob knows he must find out who, or what, killed him and why. Using the excuse that visiting the island would ease the trauma Jacob convinces his psychiatrist and his family to let him visit the “Home” where his grandfather spent his childhood. Once in Wales, with his dad in tow as chaperone, Jacob stumbles upon a group of very unusual children. He learns that his grandfather’s stories were more truth than fantasy and that he is not as common as he once thought. The world he lived in was never at all what it seemed. Miss Peregrine and the children, hidden in a time loop for the better part of sixty years, are being hunted by monsters and it falls on Jacob’s shoulders to protect them at all cost.
Recommended for time travel buffs, psychological horror fans, murder mystery aficionados, fantasy lovers, Young Adult fans, or anyone looking for an interesting or “peculiar” read. Also recommended for fans of Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human or Zena Henderson’s “People” stories.
4 ½ out of 5 stars
A word (or three) about the peculiar photographs –
Ransom Riggs came up with the idea for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children after stumbling upon a number of “found” vintage photographs. Mixed throughout the book are many of these unusual, sometimes spectral, sepia-toned images. Hoax, “Spirit”, and fake photographs were mass-distributed around the turn of the last century as a means to gain popularity or make money and have been around almost as long as the art of photography. That so many of them survive is a testament to those who collect and preserve them. The images presented in the novel are suggestive of a bizarre nature or contain an illusion-like oddity or uncommon scene and as I continued to read I looked forward to seeing more of them. There was something compelling and altogether eerie about every image and I wanted to meet the characters shown in them and hear their individual stories. Riggs integrated the unrelated images into the novel perfectly fitting them together like the pieces of a puzzle. A woman in period clothes holding a parasol became Miss Peregrine, an old subway tunnel became the entry to a time loop, and so on. As the story unfolded in his imagination Riggs started searching for similar photos. He went to swap meets and flea markets and was allowed access to photographic collections to search for more “peculiar” images to help propel the story forward. The afterward contains a listing of all the images used and the collections they’re from. In an interview, Riggs told fans that he’s compiled a huge backlog of additional images for a sequel. I, for one, can’t wait to see what the next installment brings us.