Updated on May 19, 2015
43. ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ by Ransom Riggs
I first heard about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children on the vlogbrothers’ YouTube channel, when John Green – best-selling author of The Fault in Our Stars – talked about his friend Ransom’s newly published novel. (Incidentally, TFiOS is the first book I ever reviewed on this blog!)
Although the book intrigued me at the time, I never did anything about it. Fast forward a couple of years and a friend recommended a rather strange book that I just had to read. It was, of course, Miss Peregrine. I love how some books can kind of dip in and out of your life before you even touch a copy for the first time.
This book tells the story of a boy called Jacob, who grew up listening to his grandfather’s strange stories about the orphanage where he used to live. The children there all had mysterious magical powers, and they lived in isolation on an island in Wales, watched over by the schoolmistress, Miss Peregrine.
Of course, Jacob outgrows his grandfather’s stories, but when he one day finds the old man dead in the woods behind his house – and sees something peculiar in the trees – he begins to think that maybe there’s some truth to the fairytales he grew up with.
The book is based on a very interesting idea. Riggs is a film-maker as well as a writer, and he also enjoys collecting old photographs. The story of Miss Peregrine is built around some of these photographs: he has constructed a narrative based on the weird photos that he collected.
I think it’s a concept that, for the most part works really well, although it does fall down in places. Sometimes it’s just too obvious that Riggs has forced in a character or a plot point, just to make use of the photographs. Of course, I love the idea that the images are ‘real’ (obviously some editing has taken place in some of them) and Riggs does a great job of building his story, but just occasionally I felt that the artifice took me out of the world of the book.
I also wasn’t terribly keen on how the parents were dealt with in the novel, especially Jacob’s dad. Jacob travels to the Welsh island with his father to find out more about the strange orphanage, but he ends up going off exploring all the time and leaving his dad alone, often going out for hours and returning in the middle of the night. Inexplicably, the father seems fine with this, and doesn’t seem to mind that his (potentially disturbed) son just disappears for hours on end.
I did enjoy the ending, the last couple of hundred pages. The final section really picks up the pace, knitting together all the things we’ve learned about the peculiar children and their strange existence up until this point. It’s a pretty dramatic finale and it leaves the story open for the sequel, Hollow City, which was released this year. I think Miss Peregrine is well worth a read for its unusual structure and the weird-as-all-hell photographs.
“Now I had acute stress and nightmares and was sitting alone in a falling-down house and crying hot, stupid tears all over my shirt. All because of a seventy-year-old hurt that had somehow been passed down to me like some poisonous heirloom.”
If you liked my review, why not read the book and let me know what you think?