I love Oxford in the rain. Even a little drizzle seems to clear the streets, and if you head off into the city’s many alleyways during a decent downpour it can feel as though you have the whole place to yourself. I got caught out in a thunderstorm while walking between talks at the literary festival today, and had a great time taking touristy pictures in the moody, semi-empty streets. I was pleased to warm up in front of the open fire in Christ Church College’s Great Hall after a little too long taking pictures in the hail and the rain- I was soaked through!
Retaining the high production values of the first book in the series, Hollow City by Ransom Riggs is a stylish follow-up to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Following on where the first book left off, it sees Jacob Portman and his peculiar friends running for their lives from the wights and hollowgasts that are pursuing them. Their fight for survival becomes a race against time when they realise that their injured headmistress, an ymbryne trapped in bird form, is at risk of losing her humanity for ever unless they can find another ymbryne to save her within two days.
Though it retains the style and charm of the first book in the series, there were times when I became a little frustrated with aspects of the characterisation. Many of the peculiar children have been living the same day since the Second World War, which would easily make them in their 70s, but their emotional responses to many of the situations in the book make them seem like ordinary children. I can appreciate that a lot of the tension derives from this, but at times I felt the children’s emotional vulnerability was played on a little too much. Even if you have grown up in an incredibly sheltered manner, surely you have to some extent grown up?
Either way, it’s a minor criticism and the book should be praised for its originality and flair. There are some brilliant moments where minor characters in the plot of the story like Olive’s friend Jessica, or Sam and Elsa, steal the scene completely. The idea of time travelling within the loops is a great one as well, and the examples of people aging forward are horrible and highly effective. I only wish there’d been a little time to explore the landscapes that the characters travelled to within the loops in a little more detail, as this was a real strength of the first title in the series.
I’ve no idea when the third book is due, but I’m really looking forward to it. I only hope I get to read it before the rumoured Tim Burton film adaptation comes out.
Jacob Portman always thought his grandfather’s tale about fleeing from Poland to escape monsters who he later went on to fight was something like a fairy, a tale he’d concocted to articulate the horrors of life during World War II to his small grandson. But when Jacob is sixteen, a horrible family tragedy occurs. Soon, Jacob finds himself travelling from Florida to Wales, in search of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It isn’t long before he begins to wonder whether there might have been more truth in his grandfather’s stories than he could possibly have imagined.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a haunting fusion of photography and narrative. It represents a labour of love for Ransom Riggs (is this his real name? it’s amazing) and his fellow collectors who salvaged the vintage photographs which are a key part of this eerie scrapbook novel. Though the photographic element of the novel is compelling, this is in no way a gimmick to sell an inferior piece of writing. The story and characters would be engaging on their own, but the photographs do add a disturbing realism to this tale of the paranormal. The designer and production team deserve some kind of award, it’s a real work of art.
Upon finishing this novel, I not only wanted to know when the follow-up is due(Quirk Books has an untitled Miss Peregrine sequel as being available from June 2013, no cover design as yet) but found myself wanting to know more about the improbably named and wholly brilliant Ransom Riggs. Wikipedia tells me that he is an American author, but he must have spent some time around the Welsh because even as an enthusiastic (and slightly prickly) Welshie, I found myself laughing at the realistic representations of Anglo-Welsh dialect “I said shaddap, ya dozy bastards” and the slightly Chavvy boy rappers Dylan and Worm, who might easily have been inspired by Maggot and his friends in Goldie Lookin’ Chain.
Not only am I looking forward to reading about Ransom Riggs’ peculiar children, but I will be experimenting a bit more with titles from Quirk Books. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a little gimmicky for my liking, but I think that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children demonstrates a genuine commitment to a more experimental type of publishing and they have to be applauded for this.
I’m really excited about some of the promising sequels being released in 2013!