Library of Souls

This is tragic. Not the actual story of Library of Soulsbut that it is the last in the Peculiar Children trilogy by author Ransom Riggs. Hopefully not the last of series as a whole, but more on that later.

In 2013 a dear friend lent me her copy of the first book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and it caught and held me in the odd embrace only to be found in fantasy. I will stick with calling it fantasy by the way, rather than getting completely muddled by the ridiculous number of terms that make up the catalogue of literary genres.

This is not really a review of the book, but rather a collection of my back and forth thoughts about it. I would say it is an extended musing, but that would be self-aggrandising in a time when everything coughed up on the internet is a ‘musing’; most not very amusing. Alright, that’s enough for puns.

So then, lets talk literature I suppose the Peculiar books are ‘Speculative Fiction’, which is a term I found this morning and seems an unnecessary umbrella for a whole bunch of other genres, but is unhelpfully tautological. Like describing a piece of fruit as both firm and squishy. What is fiction if not speculative? Or I might put it another way; what is speculative fiction if not the fiction that is worth reading? Insofar as that rule stands — since I learned the term this morning we mustn’t get too attached to my theory — Ransom Riggs’ Peculiar Children series is worth cracking open if you come across it.

To start with he–Ransom Rigs–collected old photos from flea markets and pawnshops and upon the suggestion of his publisher used the most eerie ones to create a story. They are scattered throughout all three Peculiar Children books and help visualise a scene, or a character, or some other part of the plot. Most do not carry any digital enhancement, and although they complement the story and formed the narrative building blocks that the author used, the result is not a picture book.

Embarrassingly I have not written about the other two books, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and Hollow City (see below).

I refer you a short and worthy keyboard smattering from Lara’s book club which gives a brief review of the first book.

In profiles, articles, and promotional kipple; Ransom Riggs–and his work–tends to be described as quirky, and creepy. These words are becoming clichés (quirky being a particular favourite these days) as general descriptions people go to desperate lengths to have ascribed to themselves, but maybe because of that they are important. Perhaps that is what twists the knife in the guts of linguists. A word can be both subversive and honest. Over-used and yet describing what tries to be unique, to stand apart. What is in fact peculiar.

Now that segways back rather well to the book in question. Like its predecessors it targets a part of you that stands apart, that doesn’t fit, that is frightened and bored of the world. Isolation, alienation, and a yearning for vindication (ignore that last one if you like, I was searching for another ‘ion’ word) these are common notions in adolescence (I won’t trust anyone who disagrees), which don’t necessarily fade away with time.

So this is number three in a trilogy, and so far Ransom Riggs has not said whether he will add to the series. I would hazard a guess at Library of Souls being the last outing of Jacob Portman, at least as the point-of-view character. The series opens and closes with a pleasing symmetry, I would not fancy it being spoiled by the lined being picked up again.

The last book of the Peculiar universe? Unlikely. Oh, what a happy thought! Assuming there are good vernacular photographs left to guide the story. Human’s have such a penchant for pictures that makes me feel secure that Ransom Riggs still has plenty in his (or his friends) collections.

For those that for some horrible reason are affected by a dislike of reading (I speak to whoever knows someone thus afflicted, since those actually concerned would gnaw on asphalt before getting near a blog) Tim Burton is directing the film adaptation to the first book. It comes out next year, and I am cautious about it as one might expect. I’ll save those thoughts for another post.

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