Consorting with ghosts, magical children with haunting abilities and women who morph into giant birds isn't exactly my daily routine, but this lifestyle slowly becomes the norm for Jacob Portman, a teenage boy whose life upends upon the murder of his beloved grandfather. Dramatic, gripping and especially rousing if read late at night, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will definitely excite those who thrive on reading mystery fiction and thrillers.
Ransom Riggs' novel tells the story of Jacob Portman, a mostly orthodox character with a rich family, a sour outlook on life and few friends. An important presence in his life was that of his grandfather, Abe, a Jewish World War II survivor. The book begins by expanding upon fantastical legends Abe tells Jacob about moving to a medieval island in Wales, monsters and children with special abilitie.
But Jacob soon sheds the awed belief of his childhood and regards his grandfather's stories as tales that were more entertainment than truth. His doubt is soon erased after he finds his grandfather in a mess of blood and flesh in the woods outside his home, a shadow phantom with bewitching eyes that only Jacob can see standing over Abe. Naturally, therapy with a psychologist, Dr. Golan, ensues, since Jacob cannot banish the thought of the bloodsucking, demon-like creature from his mind.
This theatrical beginning propels the story forward, culminating in Jacob flying to the tiny Welsh island with his father to demystify the last words of his sputtering grandfather ("Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man's grave …") The depressingly worn down and deserted Cairnholm Island is unique in that it harbors Miss Peregrine's refuge for children.
Abe was a resident of this house until it was bombed by air raiders during a late night airstrike. Visiting the haunted mansion by himself, Jacob stumbles onto strange photographs of children with impossible abilities, such as being able to hold fire, lift enormous rocks over their heads and levitate quietly above the ground.
I will admit, the novel was hard to follow at times because the imagination and terminology required to read the story were somewhat taxing. It is difficult to keep all the players in a straight line from chapter to chapter. But I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone with a zest for fantasy thrillers. The action is just gruesome enough, the rural lore is captivating and the words are haunting enough to raise a few hairs on the arm.
The author also included many pictures within chapters that accompany the story perfectly. After trying to imagine a photograph of a calm boy with a buzzing cloud of bees zooming around his head, it was neat to turn the page and see a black and white picture depicting that. The supernatural quality was chilling, especially the first time the reader walks with Jacob and explores the seemingly abandoned house of Miss Peregrine.
Although this book wasn't exactly my literary cup of tea, the character of Jacob was relatable. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is currently being filmed in the Tampa Bay area by acclaimed director Tim Burton; he shot the beginning scenes of the book in the Belleair Bluffs neighborhood.
If you're craving a bizarre, other-worldly immersion, pick up this book at your nearest library today.