An Amateur Literary Criticism to The Book of Lost Things

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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This book was solid.

Reading this novel is revisiting my childhood and the fairy tales that I grew up with and found comfort in. More than that, the novel is a good specimen for close reading and analysis. I have taken the liberty of examining some of the story’s elements using the little knowledge of literary criticism I have.

The Structure

The frame story – David, our protagonist, escaped from a war, only to find himself in the middle of a brewing war in a different world. He was transported to a land where stories meshed together, and while I followed his adventures, I could also witness other stories en medias res and see their endings. The ending, which shall not be revealed here for the simple reason that I don’t want it to, brought it all together.

Binary opposites Like how any fantasy book works, there are several binary opposites to be found in the text including the following:

  • King vs Slave
  • Hero vs Shadow
  • Old vs Young

Symbol – His name – David, could also be a symbolism to what he was but this is me already overreading things. His name might be a reference to David who shot the giant, Goliath with his slingshot.

The Archetypes

  1. The reluctant hero’s journey – We follow David who was not a hero material and who was not looking for an adventure of any kind apart from the ones he could read from his book.
  2. Bildungsroman – A story of growing maturity and acceptance, David started from a boy battling with depression over his mom’s death to a man-boy who could face adversary.
  3. Guide / Old Man – The Woodsman who took care of David was solitary and he lived in the woods. The only thing missing was the bushy beard that could rival Dumbledore’s.
  4. The Jester – Even great kings need wise advisers but King was completely overpowered by his Jester, the Crooked Man.
  5. Shadow – The Crooked Man serves as David’s shadow. He certainly kept a good eye on the child all throughout the story. He wove stories for his fancy,

Retold Fairy Tales

These are just some of the stories retold in the book:

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs– Snow White over-extended her welcome and demanded too much from the dwarfs.
  2. Sleeping Beauty – She did not need saving apparently because she was the captor of unfortunate men who responded to her call.
  3. Red Riding Hood – The Wolf must have attracted Little Red Riding Hood too much, enough to commit bestiality with him.
  4. Hansel and Gretel – There’s a huge twist to the old fairy tale, my affection for the little brother greatly diminished.

Did I spoil the book for you? Did I overread? Maybe so.

Reading this was so enjoyable that the fact I couldn’t finish it sooner due to work was a crime.


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