Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was first published in 2011 and is Ransom Rigg’s debut novel. It’s an eerie mystery about a teenage boy who sets out to discover the truth in the strange stories that his grandfather told him as a child. The novel forms the first part of a trilogy and is followed by Hollow City (2014) and Library of Souls (2015). There is also a film adaptation of the first book due for release at the end of this year.

At the age of sixteen, Jacob Portman had long come to believe that his grandfather was just senile. He was old enough now to see that the tales of a childhood spent in an orphanage full of “peculiar” children were just symbolic of his evacuation from war-torn Poland, and the monsters that chased him were just Nazi soldiers. However, Jacob suddenly realises how wrong he is when tragedy strikes and he witnesses his grandfather’s death at the hands of a hideous ghoul.

Unable to believe his eyes, Jacob suffers from nightmares and anxiety attacks. On his psychiatrist’s urging, he begins to investigate his grandfather’s past and discovers that he really did once live in an orphanage on the remote Welsh island of Cairnholm. Jacob decides to visit the island in the hope that doing so will help him confront his fears.

However, Cairnholm holds many mysteries. As Jacob explores the island and the ruins of the orphanage, he starts to unearth a secret that’s been hidden since 1940. It rapidly becomes clear that everything his grandfather told him was true. That the children were kept hidden in such a remote place for a very good reason and, impossibly, that they’re still alive.

Before I begin, I think I should just comment briefly on the tone as the novel. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is clearly aimed at younger readers. While the story does contain some horror elements, it never felt as though they were inappropriate for this target audience. It’s creepy enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck rise but not so scary that it will keep you up at night.

The novel presents itself as an engrossing and well-paced mystery, very quick to find its feet and hook the reader. It’s difficult to talk about the story itself as there are twists and turns at every corner. It’s definitely one of those novels that you’re best off going into blind as this allows you the excitement of uncovering the mystery at the same rate that Jacob does.

As Jacob explores Cairnholm, the plot carefully unfolds around him and leads him into a world that he could have never imagined. The story is really cinematic in scope, conjuring creepy images of abandoned orphanages, isolated rural villages and treacherous marshland. There is a pervasive sense of isolation throughout the early part of the novel as Jacob spends a lot of time lost in his own thoughts which helps to further increase the tension.

I feel that I also should probably also mention the photographs here. To get the best experience out of reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I would really recommend buying the paperback. The book is filled with old photographs which help to illustrate the story. While I know that opinion is divided on their inclusion, I personally thought that this was a nice gimmick. They were interesting to look at and helped to assign names to faces, thus adding a sense of realism to Jacob’s strange tale.

The book is very easy to read and I never once felt lost within the story. While the novel did slow down after Jacob meets the peculiar children, it still never gets boring. I found that it was a very addictive read. I couldn’t stop because I was never quite sure what direction the story was heading in. Certain characters in the story always came across as being suspicious, particularly Miss Peregrine herself. She fluctuated so rapidly between being motherly and secretive and overbearing that I was never sure how far Jacob could trust her.

That said, I did find the ending of the novel to be a little disappointing. I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly but it all just felt a little muted. After all of the build-up, the drama of the final chapters was resolved rather easily but still left a lot of hanging threads. While it wasn’t as bad as some of the other cliffhangers that I’ve criticised, there was still a lack of closure. This was a real shame as the story was otherwise very strong. It didn’t need to break off on such an uncertain note in order to convince me to buy its sequel!

Characterisation in the novel was pretty great on the whole. Riggs really allowed the reader to get inside Jacob’s head, building him into a very realistic teenage boy. While he could occasionally be a little jerk (the novel opens with a scene where he’s deliberately being a git at work because he knows that they won’t fire him), he was also really relatable and I could certainly empathise with his situation.

I also really liked how unique each of the peculiar children were. All of them spoke with noticeably different voices and possessed their own strengths and weaknesses. I had a particular liking for Millard. I’m not sure what it is about him but his antics just brought a smile to my face. However, they weren’t without their problems.

Firstly, I was a disappointed by the lack of interaction we see between them and Jacob. He doesn’t really spend much time with them at all over the novel yet after just a couple of days, he’s debating whether or not he should abandon his family to stay with them forever. I appreciate the limitations of a 350 page novel but it all just felt rather fast.

Secondly was the fact that the voice and general attitudes of the peculiar children all felt a little off. It’s hard to express exactly why without spoiling the story so I’ll just be brief. I got the impression that they varied quite wildly in age but most of them spoke as though they were little kids. This was particularly noticeable with Emma. I first thought that she was a little girl until the photographs revealed that she was actually in her mid-teens. While this does make the characters a little more accessible to younger readers, it just didn’t read right to me as an adult.

Anyhow, I should really wrap up now. Sorry for the shorter review but I really don’t want to give anything away. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a charming and engaging novel that younger readers will love. While I do have a few small gripes with the story and characters, it does present a really gripping mystery and a fantastically creepy setting. This is definitely one that I’d recommend and I really can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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  1. Trackback: The Sobeks 2016 – Part 1 | Arkham Reviews

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