Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was a book that I heard a lot about before purchasing. I had read numerous blog reviews and features, and it had been personally recommended to me by several people. I had very high expectations, and I thoroughly looked forward to beginning it.



From the outset, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children appeared to be exactly my kind of book. The novel promises creepy vintage photographs and a fantasy plot. I am always fascinated by unusual reads; and this was an attractive concept.

Jacob has been raised listening to the outwardly far-fetched and imaginative tales of his Grandfather. After the mysterious and disturbing death of his Grandfather, Jacob travels to a quiet, remote island off the coast of Wales in an attempt to find answers regarding his Grandfather’s mysterious life and his disconcerting death. It is here that he finds the seemingly abandoned ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

The beginning of the novel is incredibly promising. The photographs are disturbing yet entrancing, and I found the prologue immensely intriguing. The plot was engaging and I found myself flicking through it in anticipation of the next photograph. This book is superb aesthetically; it was almost worth purchasing for the photos alone. They complimented the eerie atmosphere beautifully.

Unfortunately, despite the photographs, which are the most interesting aspect of the novel, I found Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to be somewhat of a disappointment. The plot grew considerably weaker by the second half of the novel, and I found my interest dwindling. When compared with the beginning of the novel, the second half is remarkably dull. The pace slowed down and I found myself tempted to put the book down in favour of another read. To put it simply, the book does not have a strong enough plot to match up to the photographs. During my GCSEs we used to play a game that consisted of one person writing down a list of twenty words, which you then had to slot within a short creative writing extract. I felt that Riggs was almost doing the same exercise but with photographs replacing words. The photographs should have enriched the plot and the atmosphere of the novel, I do not feel that they should have directed the narrative in a way that at times felt rather forced. I feel that the concept of the novel was excellent, but the plot was underdeveloped, and lacked distinct direction. The phrase 'style over substance' springs to my mind. Likewise, I did not feel sympathetic towards Jacob, and consequently I did not feel particularly attached to him. He was not overly likeable as a hero, and I did not find him believable as a sixteen year old boy. I do not have a problem with disagreeable narrators, but I do think that the narrator ought to be intriguing enough to keep me reading. Jacob was not. He was not relatable, and I certainly did not find him likeable. Overall I simply felt that the premise of the novel was excellent, but it was executed extremely poorly. It's a pity as it is such a beautiful book.

 I desperately wanted to like this. The premise was incredibly promising, and I'm very disappointed that it did not fulfil my expectations. I had read a number of outstanding reviews on this book before purchasing, and even though I am naturally a terrible sceptic, I wanted to believe them. I even read it second time in an attempt to coerce myself into liking this book just a little more. I do think that perhaps it would have been a lot more successful as a standalone novel. I have not yet read Hollow City, and I am still undecided as to whether I ought to read it. If anybody has read Hollow City after finding Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children disappointing, I would love to know if you think it is worth reading.

12 comments:

  1. I'm glad you found the second half as I did. I stuck with the story but my interest was lacking and the storyline was getting a bit silly towards the end I felt. That said, I still requested the second book for Christmas so I shall let you know what I think when I get around to read it x

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    1. I completely agree with you, I also felt that it did get silly towards the end. Please let me know what you think about Hollow City when you have finished it! I've heard a few mixed reviews so far.

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  2. I was always on the fence about buying and reading this book, but often heard that the second half did not live up to the first... Are the pictures alone worth buying it?

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    1. I think it depends on what you value. The photos are excellent, but personally I would prefer the narrative to be a little more intriguing. If you enjoy photography I would absolutely recommend the photographs. A lot of people did enjoy it though, so it is perhaps worth buying.

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  3. I am ver glad you decided to start making regular book reviews here on the blog. It always seems funny to me that although there are quite a lot of bookworms around, we tend to feel quite lazy when it comes to reviewing, haha.

    In relation to Miss Peregrine's, I didn't really trust the book concept from the beginning. There is something about 'design-over-content' I don't like. I mean, to me books are all about words and even with classics I can be quite picky.

    The thing is I found the novel on a bookstore a while ago and had a good look at it. As I jad supposed, the narrative style didn't fit me at all, so I left it and bought some other book instead.

    Now I am happy to see I wasn't that wrong about first impression. Maybe I will give a chance to Burton's adaptation once it's released, but that's all, I guess.

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    1. Yes I agree! I am not sure why it is. I think with me it is because I read so quickly, so by the time I have started to write a review I have already moved onto something else. I am determined to stop being lazy and make book reviews a regular feature!

      I completely agree with you. I buy books for the narrative, not the design. It will be interesting to see what Burton does with it, but I think I will watch the trailer when it is released before I decide if I am going to pay to see it.

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  4. I heard so much about this book but I never got around to actually reading it.
    I was thinking about buying it but I am quite happy I did not since it didn't inspire that feeling of "neeeed". I am glad of your review, I enjoy them very much and I find that we are on the same page most of the time! <3

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    1. Thank you, I am so glad that you enjoy them! I know a lot of people who adored it, but it just didn't invoke that sort of enthusiasm in me. I am quite disappointed, I think my expectations were really high.

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  5. I've read this twice, once when it was given to me as a gift and the second as my book group - who have no interest in either fantasy or YA - inexplicably chose it to read last February. Like others, I thought the book was beautifully presented with an interesting premises, but I have to admit I found the second reading a bit annoying. I haven't read the second novel, though I will when it comes into my library - but I wouldn't buy it.

    I did love sinister little Enoch and his mouse hearts. I gave it 3 stars (or 6/10) on Goodreads - enjoyable but not vintage.

    My book group's review is here:
    https://whitleybaybookgroup.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-by-ransom-riggs/

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    1. I completely agree with the review from your book group. I did feel that the photographs would have made a beautiful collection if they had been published together as a photo book. I did think the book was beautifully presented, but it is such a pity that the premise was not executed as well as it could have been, and I would have preferred it to have been a little creepier.

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  6. I can assure you that you don't have to read the second book if you absolutely not want to. The second book is even slower if you can call an endless chase slow and speeds up in the end just enough to stop with another damn cliffhanger,( maybe to get more buyers of the third book). I agree about the connection with the photos and the plot

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    1. That really doesn't sound very promising, so I think I will skip Hollow City, unless I find it incredibly cheap in a second hand bookstore. I think perhaps the photos would have worked a lot better if they had been blended into the plot a little more, or if Riggs had expanded on some of the characters. It's a pity as they are beautiful.

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