Friday, July 2, 2010

Book Club Discussion - The Book of Lost Things

We're very excited for our first ever LitSnit Book Club discussion and we hope you all are as well! Our pick for June was John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things.

Below you'll find some discussion questions, which we came up with as a jumping off point for the discussion.  Feel free to answer some or all of the questions, or even veer off topic with thoughts of your own!

Many of the original fairy tales written down by the brothers Grimm are dark and very violent, which Connolly seemed to draw upon in his novel.  However, we’ve grown up with much more sanitized versions of these tales.  How did you react to the darker aspects of familiar fairy tales in The Book of Lost Things?  Did these darker elements surprise you?

Which of your favorite childhood fairy tales did Connolly not
include in his book?

Who or what do you think is the real villain in the novel and why?  Who is the hero?

What do you think is the significance of the title “The Book of Lost Things”?  What has Jonathan “lost”?  What has David?

In your opinion, what is the story’s central conflict?

How did you react to the ending?  Did you find it sad/uplifting/hopeful?

If you could rewrite the ending, would you? What would be your ending?

Lastly, a fun question: if they were going to make a movie inspired by "The Book of Lost Things" who would you cast? [David, Leroi, Roland, Jonathan, etc.]


  1. I'm a bit of a fairy tale geek, so none of the darker elements surprised me, since i knew going in this would be drawing upon the old fairy tales. I had the same reaction as David to "Roland's First Tale" (heard that one before). It was a gender-flip of "Goose Girl", gruesome death sentence ending and all.

    To the second question (favorites not included in the book)... Has anyone read "The Juniper Tree"? The tensions in David's home life (step-mother, her child, son from previous marriage) made me think Jupiter Tree themes might somehow make an appearance. I also thought there was a missed opportunity in the Snow White chapter to remind people that, before Disney got their hands on the tale, Snow White had *three* attempts on her life: the corset stays and the poisoned comb being the first two. I wish those had been included if Snow White was going to be there at all (and I'm not sure what her chapter added to the overall plot).

    I liked the Rumpelstiltskin/trickster character of the Crooked Man (though I thought a chapter's worth of his other evil deeds toward the end didn't add anything to the story either). The power of a name, punishing children for wicked deeds, the consequences for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person... they all fit with the fairy tale theme nicely.

  2. I'm only mildly familiar with the original fairy tales and can never seem to remember them so I was surprised but not shocked at a lot of the ways Connolly used fairy tales in this novel. I totally didn't put the Rumpelstiltskin character together with the Crooked Man until the very end, even though it probably should have been obvious.

    I really like the way Connolly flipped "the Goose Girl" and his use of Roland. This story was all about David growing up and I liked that he was introduced to diversity (well...a little diversity) and learned people aren't always what they seem.

  3. I really liked the ending to The Book of Lost Things. It felt very fast, but it was really affecting. For some reason it reminded me of the Lost finale in that this world was a place for David to find peace and see those he loved again. I felt like Connolly, though, made David's life growing up needlessly hard and full of pain. I know it's a fact of life, but reading about David's grown up life I just kept thinking "damn, can't this guy catch a break!?"

    I feel like it can't be described in one word. Though I cried when I finished the book and found it sad, there was a definite feeling of hope and peace when David went back to the Woodsman (I loved that it turned out to be his father).

  4. well, since i love movie casting all of my books, here are my picks:
    David-Freddie Highmore
    Roland-Hugh Dancy
    Woodsman/David's father-Lee Pace
    Leroi-Michael Weatherly(?)
    Jonathan/The King-Christopher Plummer
    Huntress-Michelle Rodriguez

  5. I didn't connect him to Rumpelstiltskin until the author said either, probably because I don't think of his character as a villian, like the Crooked Man was. (in Rumpelstiltskin, it's the king who threatened the miller's daughter with death who I consider the villian)... but I'll admit my attitude is colored by my favorite fairy tale retelling: Patricia Brigg's short story "The Price" (found in "Silver Birch, Blood Moon" anthology)

  6. Wow. This book is...just wow.

    Usually, I have no problem finishing a book in a single sitting but, in this case, I had to put the book down several times for I found it to be distubring & heartbreaking. (It did not help that I started to read this book while being stuck out in the woods! Talk about creepy...)

    I had always heard that the true fairy tales had very violent and cruel (?) endings but I had never got around to actually reading them. Because of this, I was shocked by the darker elements of these stories. I found it even more disturbing when these were presented to David at the age of 12!

    The title signifies, at least to me, the loss of childhood/innocence...that moment that you realize in life that everything isn't happy and beautiful, that the world can very well be a scary place. I think it's at this moment that the core of a person's character is defined. The way they react to situations or to people. While I think Jonathan's loss came at the sight of The Crooked Man, I feel David had already had somewhat of a loss at the death of his mother. Her already knew that, even with all of the routines and thought out plans, life is not all sunshine and roses and may not end up being what you want it to be.

  7. You know, sometimes actors/people jump out at me while I'm reading, (Bryn's adoptive werewolf father in Raised by Wolves was totally Timothy Olyphant to me as I was reading) but that didn't happen for some reason with The Book of Lost Things.

    That said, for some reason I saw Roland as a blond or blondish. Maybe a Sean Bean type?

  8. Yeah, I've been struggling to come up with a cast for this book also. I will say that Freddy Highmore is a great choice for David!

  9. Oh, and not to draw too heavily from Lord of the Rings, Viggo Mortensen for the Woodsman/Father.

  10. How did you react to the darker aspects of familiar fairy tales in The Book of Lost Things? Did these darker elements surprise you?

    Grimm’s Fairy Tales are about as good as they come for children’s stories. They have moral lessons, scary characters, and, always, and invitation into a fantasy world other than our own. The best part about The Book of Lost Things is how Connolly incorporated the Grimm’s stories into his own twisted fairytale-esque story. The most graphic part of the novel is about the huntress in the forest who wants to place David’s head on a foxes body.

    Which of your favorite childhood fairy tales did Connolly not
    include in his book?

    My favorite story was touched upon, but not intertwined through the plotline. It is the story about the prince and the servant, who switch places, but the servant’s lie is revealed and he sentences himself to death. I love it for its graphicness in the Grimm’s version, but I almost wish David would have encountered someone who thinks he will become King and so trades places with him…delaying his journey once more.

    In your opinion, what is the story’s central conflict?

    I think the central conflict has to be David’s internal conflict as he learns throughout his journey within this new world. Having to mature so quickly (being twelve years old) he realizes that he wants to be with his family. When he sees that the King was selfish in his decision to give up his sister’s soul to the Trickster, David wanted more than ever to be in his own world.

    Lastly, a fun question: if they were going to make a movie inspired by “The Book of Lost Things” who would you cast? [David, Leroi, Roland, Jonathan, etc.]

    I would definitely want Guillermo del Toro to direct it because I love how dark his film Pan’s Labyrinth is. I would cast a non-descript boy with minimal acting experience as David to really place this movie on its own terms (like Daniel Radcliffe before Harry Potter…non-existent to our eyes). For the Trickster I would cast Adrien Brody, but I’m not sure on this one. I enjoy his performance in some movies, but in others he falls flat for me. I think a different role might change my opinion of him. For the huntress I would cast Charlize Theron because of her transformation in the blockbuster Monster. I would like to see her play a villain.

  11. The Huntress was definitely the most disturbing character to me. There was something more thought out and (in her mind) rational about what she was doing, rather than the other, more unhinged characters David ran into.

    Well said in regards to David's internal conflict. He's not only dealing with the struggle between two worlds (the fantastical world/childhood and real world/adulthood), but he's learning that things aren't so black and white as they are in books. It's that moment as a child you realize that life isn't easy and adults don't have all the answers.

    I love the idea of Guillermo del Toro as director. Now that you've said that I almost want to read the book again with that atmosphere of Pan's Labyrinth in mind. Totally agree with you about an unknown for David and Charlize for the Huntress.

  12. [...] (including one novel) which I need to pick up.  If you were at all a fan of our book club book, The Book of Lost Things, I would encourage you to try Fables.  It keeps the spirit of dark old world tales and is entirely [...]