Please note that while I have tried to avoid mentioning any spoilers, it was pretty hard to write this review without referring to anything specific, so I cannot guarantee that you won’t read anything you don’t want to know!
Abridged synopsis from Goodreads: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photos. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sends 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.
I first heard about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children last year and made a post about it, sharing the super creepy movie-like book trailer and extract, but for no good reason it at all, it has taken me a year to pick it up. I, like most people, was instantly drawn to it because of the cover and old photographs that are scattered throughout the book. I didn’t realise at the time that these are vintage photographs — actually real and taken from personal collections — rather than created especially for the book. This is just one aspect of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children that adds exciting realism to the story.
Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham Portman, escaped the Nazis during WWII, though his family were not as fortunate, but there are other ‘monsters’ that continue to haunt him. In contrast, Jacob has spent most of his ‘ordinary’ life listening to his grandfather’s ‘fairy tales’ of mysterious children who can levitate, become invisible, and play host to a swarm of bees. Jacob is about to experience just how extraordinary his life could be…
Ransom Riggs expertly crafts eerie anticipation and build-up throughout the story. It is slow, but doesn’t at all drag. Cairnholm reminded me a little of Shutter Island and that’s how I pictured it – perfectly average, in a way, but tinged with a sense of something not quite right. Although you might first assume that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a horror novel, it is neither horror nor a thriller, but instead a spectacular, bizarre mystery. A highlight of the novel for me was watching everything unravel and become clear to Jacob as well as myself. Who is Miss Peregrine? What happened to the orphanage? What part does Abe play? Halfway through the story, these questions begin to be answered, and it takes us to a world of fantasy and folklore involving the peculiars. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a wonderfully cinematic story and I could easily visualise every odd conversation, every magical curiosity, every discovery, leading up to the ‘big event’ at the end of the book.
The magical elements were gripping, even though it is not my first choice of genre, because it constantly blurred the boundaries between fantasy and reality, which made me go with the story and believe it could be true. I thought that every single character stood out (in particular Emma and Millard!) although I wish we could have found out more about their individual histories (perhaps in the sequel, published next year?). I also think it would’ve been interesting (and possibly creepier) if the children acted more as adults, because, after all, some of them are over one hundred years old. But, then again, they are not exactly ‘normal’ human beings. Even so, I thought everything – the pacing, the little dropped hints, the strange events, and Jacob’s narrative, worked together extremely well to create a fascinating and enjoyable plot.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a wonderfully unique and inventive book with colourful characters, a mysterious story, and a splash of historical relevance, incorporating vintage photographs that bring the story to life.
Watch the book trailer here.