I have just finished reading this beautiful story from new American writer Ransom Riggs. I was even more excited to find out that Tim Burton is going to make a movie out of it which will be released in 2016.
This is one unforgettable novel, peppered with old vintage photographs of “peculiar” children. Ones that are invisible, can float in air, can manipulate greenery and also the story of a world caught in a loop in time.
The story centers around a 16 year old who is his grandad’s favourite relative. Abe has showered his grandson with tales of monsters and special children ever since he was little but as he grew older, he became quieter and only upon his tragic death does His grandson finds him mauled and sliced and sees a creature in the forest that had tentacles coming out of his mouth.
“We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing in them becomes too high.”
In his grandfather’s last words, he receives a riddle that he must solve. He must go back to the Bird, go behind the old man, in the cave, September 3rd 1940, Emerson, the island. He thinks he’s going crazy, his family is tip-toeing around him and sends him to a shrink to try to figure out what’s wrong with him.
It all starts to unravel when he receives a collection of poetry from Ralph Waldo Emerson from his aunt from his grandfather’s den in which he finds a letter from Miss Peregrine dated 15 years ago asking him to return back to the island. She enclosed a picture of herself so that he might remember her.
The boy convinces his parents to let him go back to the island where his granddad grew up and they agree and let his father accompany him into a three week holiday in Wales, UK.
“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.”
Back on the island, he runs across the children in the photographs that this grandfather had shown him, none a day older. He finds out that they never left the island and were living inside a time-warp created by their headmistress Miss Peregrine, re-living the same day over and over again. The 3rd of September 1940, when the village was bombed and the house destroyed by a Nazi bomber.
They have a lavish life, playing in the sun, having great feasts every day but under all this happiness, there is an uneasiness. All of the children are over 80 years old now. If they would come out of the loop, they would die a most horrific death as they would age in an hour or two all the years they have missed in the loop.
And they are also running out of things to do. They would play “Raid the village” where they would go out one night and set fire and hurt the people in the nearby village as a training exercise for the case that someone would attack them. I suppose it’s a good way to keep you sane.
And yet my old life was as impossible to return to as the children’s bombed house. The doors had been blown our cages.
He also finds out that the peculiar children are hunted down by wights and hollows, the first identifiable by their lack of pupils, the second invisible but to a few special children – like Abe and Jacob. This is why Jacob’s grandpa neglected his family – he would go on hunting trips to rid the world of monsters and he did so until the day he was killed.
Now Jacob is asked to join the children and as the book comes to an action packed end, he will have to make a decision – stay with his dad and family and be deemed slightly crazy all his life, or live out his destiny and become one of the peculiars.
“Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize we were alone? I had always known the sky was full of mysteries—but not until now had I realized how full of them the earth was.”