Cardiff Writing

Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I’m one of those writers who’s a terrible reader.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  I read a hell of a lot, but it’s just that I tend to gravitate more towards non-fiction (you’ll probably know by now that I’m a massive history nerd/know-it-all – and that’s an understatement), I read reference books that’ll help with whatever I happen to be writing about.  But, fiction?  It’s gotta be good to grab my attention and pull me away from thinking about my own book, my own worlds and characters (I should be writing!  I need to keep writing!).

I’d been wanting to read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for a while, but when I saw that the film was coming out I decided that I needed to get a wiggle on and so I picked it up (in Costco of all places!).  I was expecting a children’s book about children with remarkable abilities (in the same vein as Harry Potter etc.), but I wasn’t expecting it to captivate me in the way that it did.  Tim Burton is directing the film – which is completely unsurprising as the book is just his sort of measure of weird and wonderful.  🙂

The story is narrated by fifteen year old Jacob Portman who lives in Florida with his mother (the rich heir to a drug store chain) and his father, a struggling writer and bird watcher.  Jacob grew up wanting to be an explorer, enthralled by his grandfather’s stories about escaping Germany during the war and going to live at a very special orphanage for peculiar children on an island off the Welsh coast run by “the bird” – Miss Peregrine whom he communicates with by letter and shared photographs.  As he grows up, Jacob begins to doubt that the stories are true (his father – who has always had a difficult relationship with Jacob’s grandfather – claims that he’s a crazy fantasist), until his grandfather is killed by a monster that only Jacob can see.  When no one believes him, his shrink suggests that he goes to Wales to find Miss Peregrine, but all he finds is a house half destroyed by a bomb shell during the war. When Jacob follows a mysterious girl who can create fire with her hands through an ancient bog, it leads him into a time loop where Miss Peregrine lives with her peculiar children, protected from the future and those who are out to harm them.
Ransom Riggs had originally set out to create picture book of strange photographs he’d collected over the years, but when his editor suggested he create a narrative to tie the photographs together, Miss Peregrine and the Peculiar Children were born 🙂  The photographs are scattered throughout the book and add to the magic and mystery created by Riggs’ beautiful prose – which I was expecting to be quite simple (children’s book), but is actually far more adult, detailed and soulful than I thought it might be.  The children’s abilities vary from a boy who can swallow bees, to a girl who has to wear weighted shoes to prevent her from floating away.  Miss Peregrine herself is an “Ymbryne”, a woman who can turn into a bird.

I absolutely loved the book.  It seemed strange to be transported from Florida to the Welsh Coast (places I know so well), and then back in time to the 1940s – but Riggs’ descriptions of each setting and the characters pulled me in hard and refused to let go.  I can’t wait to read the next book! 🙂

3 replies on “Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

I love the idea of this starting as a picture book, later tied together with narrative. It suggests the ability to really go to town with the imagination, rarely a bad thing. I’ll have to pick up the book before the film but I can’t resist Tim Burton for too long!

Liked by 1 person

I had no idea until I read the aknowledgements at the back – and some of the pictures are strange, to tie them all together like that into a coherent story! Yes, I can’t resist Tim Burton’s films either – he’s perfect for this 🙂


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