Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
I stumbled across Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children while flipping through an issue of Entertainment Weekly several months ago. Written by Ransom Riggs the novel was inspired by a number of old and peculiar photographs discovered by the author. The pictures are strange and frequently creepy. This is a bit unfortunate since the book really lacks any sense of disturbing or strange atmosphere. This is more and adventure story but one that while enjoyable felt surprisingly bereft of anything truly memorable outside its use of photographs.
The novel centers around and is narrated by a young man named Jacob. As a child Jacob was very close to his immigrant grandfather who would share stories and pictures of the strange children at the orphanage where he grew up while simultaneously warning Jacob that there were monsters in the world. As he grew older he began to doubt his grandfather’s tales as mere flights of fancy. Then the sudden and strange events surrounding his supposed senile grandfather’s death shake Jacob’s world to the core and send him on a quest to find the truth regarding his grandfather’s youth.
As I mentioned the major problem with this novel is that the atmosphere engendered by the creepy photographs does not match up with that of the novel’s prose. Even some of the creepier events of the novel are rendered in stark, workmanlike prose. For all that the novel is about Jacob’s search for his grandfather’s past he does little actually discovering on his own. In truth his grandfather’s past, and the nature of the orphanage, is laid out in a lengthy expository passage that literally takes place in a class room. The monstrous villains of the story, while a nice creepy tough to start, a explained in detail in another expository passage later in the novel.
The characters are not very interesting either. Jacob is an average teen without anything remarkable or interesting to set him apart from the pack. His father is constantly trapped in a cycle of half-started and soon abandoned projects and his mother doesn’t really seem to care too much about anything that is going on. The inhabitants of the Welsh isle on which the orphanage sits aren’t anything to note either and cast as relatively average isolated small-town folk. Their are exceptions, the two Welsh kids with aims at becoming a rap duo was superfluous though amusing touch. Bizarrely the most interesting character was the invisible orphan boy whose archaic speech and desire to create “the single most comprehensive book on a single day” was amusing and endearing and about a hundred times more interesting than Jacob.
I was somewhat aware that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was more of an adventure novel than a supernatural tale but even so with a rainy Welsh isle, tentacled monsters and creepy orphanage the decision not to for some genuine scares, or at least unease, is rather strange. To make matters worse the adventure aspects of the novel don’t really come into play until the novel’s final act. The novel’s climax is a rather exciting X-Men moment that remains the only real moment of tension in the novel. If you’ve got time to spare than you might give Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children a shot but in the end I found that the novel itself was lest interesting than the story that brought it to fruition.