The concept for this book began with old photos. Specifically, strange ‘found’ photos of children. As I understand it, Ransom Riggs was collecting old photos from anywhere he could find them – and in the UK that’s every other charity shop, flea market and antique dealer so I assume it’s not tough in the US either – panning for the gold of the truly weird or unusual photo. The story of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is hung around fifty of these, stuck at intervals in the narrative, real photos of real people that bring you up short and flesh out the descriptions and characters of the book in an almost eerie manner.
My sister gave me this book and I opened it expecting it to be one thing and then found it turned into quite another a little way in. I was expecting mild horror (peculiar children? Just say creepy little girls, let’s be honest, right), and that’s not what this is at all. It’s actually one of the most original plots I’ve ever read, and one of the most innovatively structured novels around. I pretty much loved it.
The problem with trying to review a book whilst trying not to give away the plot or even the genre is you hit a brick wall of synonyms for ‘very good, actually’ pretty fast, as it turns out. It’s confidently written, clever, creepy in places, a bit sad, a bit funny and it has that thrilling quality of really making you wonder where the plot’s going. You know how, in some books, you know all the characters are going to be just fine at the end, and obviously the bad guys aren’t going to win. Riggs does not supply that guarantee, and that’s all I’m saying.
It’s definitely a red wine pairing. It’s juicy enough to withstand a pretty heavy flavour, and has a solemn undertone that could take some heavy tannins. On the other hand, there are fantastical elements that could support a veritable bouquet of notes and it is designed for a YA audience, light and accessible as Pinot Noir. My selection, though, is Merlot, a wine in the middle of the red spectrum that complements many foods and, in a reasonable extension, many literary genres. The full, fruity flavour will hold up well with a plot that twists and develops beautifully and lingers long after you’ve finished it, an excellent quality in a book but never to be sought in a drink.
Book: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
Pair with: Merlot