‘Original’ is a word I really don’t like, mainly because it’s the word my lecturers use. ‘Try and have an original idea’, ‘All you have to do is have something original’, ‘You need something original’. I mean, what even is original? I want to say yes, of course, let me just grab my hat of original ideas and pull one out for you. Is anything really original any more? Most books and films and essays and what-nots have been inspired by other books and films and essays and what-nots. You can’t stop yourself from being influenced or inspired by something.
This is the mindset I approach when reading most books. As a writer and a reader, I’m always interested to see if I can see what inspired them or what the book is like. For example, earlier this year I read Vicious by V.E Schwab and in my review I mentioned how incredible it was to recognise the retelling of Frankenstein. Then you have Frankenstein itself which is inspired by the myth of Prometheus. Everything is just one beautiful cycle.
Then came Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
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.
I’ve been meaning to pick up this book for a while, and it’s been sitting on my shelf for over a month now. As it’s main genre is ‘horror’ (at least, that’s where we shelve it at work), I decided it would be a great read for Halloween – and that’s the day that I finished it, funnily enough.
The book astounded me, to put it lightly. I just found it so clever, and mesmerising, and enchanting, and just beautiful. The writing is fantastic, and the concept of the book is just so, dare I say original, that I just fell in love with it. However I was completely unaware that all of the weird and wonderful photos that are spattered throughout the book are actually real. Yes, the photo of a girl floating and the baby levitating are real. And somehow, Ransom Riggs collected all of these marvellous photos and managed to weave together a story out of them. It’s just so incredibly imaginative and new and exciting. I want to meet the author just to shake his hand and tell him that I think he’s a genius and one day I want to be him. Well, like him, but you get the idea.
I seem to be getting into the habit of not knowing that much about the books I start to read. All I knew for this one is that it was about children who had some kind of gifts, like X-Men, and it was classed at Waterstones as horror. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as I started the book, but as soon as you start to see photos and hear descriptions of the peculiar children you’re completely swept away. There is also a later concept introduced in the book called a ‘loop’, and so I don’t spoil anything I just want to say to those of you who do know the book: how bloody clever an idea was that? Again, I just want to say that Ransom Riggs is a genius. And I want his talent.
Interestingly enough, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the protagonist of the book. There were times where I wanted to like him, but most of the time I just wanted to yell at him. He just annoyed me for some reason, the exact justification for it still unknown to me, but that didn’t particularly detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel. Usually for me, if I don’t like the main character I’m set against the whole book. I think it was probably because this book doesn’t feel just like Jacob’s journey to discovery, but our own. I was desperate to know about his grandfather’s history for my own benefit, not Jacob’s. Never mind whatever drama you’re dealing with, let’s just keep exploring and – no, Jacob, why are you going back to town? Get your arse out of bed and go find out what’s going on because I swear if you whine one more time I’m going to find my way into the book and shake some sense into you.
If you’re interested at all in a book like this, and even if you’re not, you should read it. The photos really add such depth to the book, and for moments I can’t help but puzzle over what their true story is – Ransom sells this story, so I like to think that something similar actually happened. At least one thing is for sure – if there is such a thing as an original idea, this is it.