Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Metaphor, allegory or just meh?

*** there are some light spoilers in this review.

I really like the idea behind Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. The book started as a collection of peculiar photographs of children, and that is where the story starts.

Sixteen year-old Jacob is dealing with the before and after of his beloved grandfather’s death. No one else has ever understood him, and no one believes him when he describes his grandfather’s murder.  Jacob had his grandfather’s stories of hiding from the monsters on an island with magical children during the Holocaust and a collection of photographs from this time.

I enjoyed the first section of the book, covering his grief and people’s reaction to his stories. The second half, when he travels to the island (I won’t tell you what he finds there) relied too much on the photographs and not enough on narrative and character development.

While I didn’t hugely enjoy, or dislike, the book there were aspects I found interesting. I think it is a hugely innovative way to think about the Holocaust and World War II.  The children in the grandfather’s story are all being kept on the island because of their strange powers and abilities. They are also suspended in childhood, and have very little control over their time. I couldn’t help wondering if this was a strange allusion to concentration camps.

There are terrible monsters, hunting only these types of children, and special informers that blend into society. Jacob questions whether these stories are his grandfather’s allegorical way of being able to talk about his child as a Polish Jew in the 1940s. These are interesting ideas, but they aren’t taken far enough to work in the book.

The photographs were my favorite part of the book. While I didn’t dislike it, I don’t see why it has been so enormously popular, spending 45 weeks on the New York Times “Best Sellers” list for children’s chapter books.

For further reading and reviews:

7 thoughts on “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Metaphor, allegory or just meh?

  1. The photographs were my favorite part as well. I thought it got a little weird in the middle there. The beginning and ending were good though, maybe…it’s been a while.

    1. Totally agree. I thought the beginning was strong, and the photos were awesome. The end I read quickly, because I just wanted to be done!

  2. I have to agree. I enjoyed this book for what it was worth, but it did leave me wondering exactly what it was about the book that has kept it at the top for so long. It was good, but it’s far from the next “harry potter.”

    That being said I did like the comparison between the monsters and the nazis and all the WWII allusions, but I think some of this got lost the further into the fantasy you got and I was a little disappointed about that.

  3. I have been tempted to pick up this book for weeks, but was unsure about the storyline. Many reviews I read thought the story was mediocre at best and the only thing going for it were the pictures.

    Trying to reimagine WWII in a different way can be difficult.

    1. I agree, WWII is such a prevalent topic in literature that it is really hard to reimagine it. It doesn’t help that this came out around the same time as the book thief.

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