Not just a book for Peculiar Children
Riggs is/was an avid collector of strange photos from long gone times, and began, particularly to be fascinated by faded, peculiar photos of children. Probably they were attempts at trick photography techniques, with the photographer playing around with exposure, framing, shutter time and the like, but he had amassed a steady collection of these from various flea markets and vintage sales, as the afterword to my copy, where an interview with Riggs is included, explains.
So, the photographs and the development of a fabulous story to link them, developed. The central character in this book, 16 year old Jacob, is shown some of these photos by his Polish Jewish grandfather, and then discovers more, and the people and meaning behind them.
Jacob is in many ways a typical adolescent of his kind. Gifted, (though not really initially understanding in what way) intelligent, introspective, a loner, not quite the son his controlling parents might wish for, he is nevertheless extremely close to his grandfather, Abraham, who appears to be retreating into senility, with paranoid stories of monsters. Following his grandfather’s death, which damages and fractures Jacob, he becomes determined to try and track down and discover more of Abraham’s past as a young boy, leaving his native Poland as the Nazis moved in, and arriving as part of a kindertransport at a school on a remote island off the coast of Wales; that is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
How Peculiar those children were, not to mention the Peculiarities of Miss Peregrine herself, and how Jacob (first person narrative) discovers his own connection to all this is a wonderful journey. It is extremely well-written, twisty, turny, mind-mangling and with some genuine shocks which do not feel gratuitous. And it has also a lightness of touch, Jacob has a self-deprecating, self-mocking sense of humour and is a fine companion for the reader.
And those photos (which made me choose to get the real, rather than eread, version) are most weird and wonderful
Although personally I felt that the inevitable fight between the goodies and the baddiesat the end was a bit clichéd, I am aware that such battles are needed, but this was the one section of the book where Riggs did not quite sustain his absolute originality for me, and also, the one area of the book where I realised I was not the intended audience.