Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
I’ve just put this book down, the dust-jacket – which I’m in the habit of using as a makeshift bookmark – back in its place between the story and the covers which contain it. I’ve come back to modern-day life from the fantastical world spun by Riggs and his collection of vintage photographs. And part of me feels that returning constitutes a loss I’ll never recover from.
Is he the perfect author? Of course not. He makes a couple of mistakes here and there, although I daresay only the most diligent of nitpickers would pick up on them, and even I – queen of nitpickers – can’t hold them against him.
Jacob suffers a shocking, sudden loss, and spends quite some time in therapy coming to terms with the strange circumstances of his grandfather’s death. At last, able to accept – intellectually if not subconsciously – that there was nothing overly sinister about it, he travels to Wales to find the orphanage his beloved ancestor inhabited when hiding from the Nazi forces during WWII. But what he finds is far more than he could have expected, and soon he is embroiled in his very own fairytale.
I found Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in Waterstone’s, where I am well-known for buying scads of books to add to my pile of review copies and my dozens of as-yet unread books on the Kindle. I took one look at it and I knew I had to have it. The strange photos of children performing mad feats on the cover and scattered inside the book were something new entirely, and I couldn’t wait to bury myself in it. But I waited a couple of weeks before getting stuck in – I was worried that it would never live up to my expectations.
I’m here to tell you not to make the same mistake. Get the book, and get started. It will reel you in and grip you tightly, and before you know it, you’ll be at the other end of the story wishing it could go on and on.
Ransom Riggs’ easy-going language accompanies a marvellous story. The differences between the worlds of today’s America, that of small-town Wales, and that of the peculiar children are so subtly expressed that they gain a patina of complete reality and ensconce you comfortably in a universe you understand completely even as it gallops off into the fantastical.
I love an ambiguous ending, and part of me hopes Riggs has another stack of vintage photographs ready to continue the story. But another part of me recognises Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children as the well-rounded, completed tale it is, and would be perfectly content for it to stand on its own, a brightly glowing beacon of his undeniable talent.
Don’t take your eyes off of Ransom Riggs. If this is his debut novel, what’s yet to come can only be an astonishing procession of literary pearls.