Book Review: ‘Miss Pereginre’s Home for Peculiar Children’ by Ransom Riggs

Uncle Abe told wonderful stories about a magical land …stories that diminished in their reality in Jacob Portman’s mind as he grew up.  However, events cause Jacob to visit the little island of Cairnholm off the coast of Wales that feature in these stories to try and make sense of the tragic incident that occurs early in the novel.

This is the first book that I have read that features inserts such as these – black and white vintage photographs which are used to give us a visualization of some of the characters portrayed.  It makes the book so unique and almost gives the reader a sense of knowing the characters, it gives them life.  For some reason my favourite character is Horace, the boy with prophetic dreams just because I keep imagining him running around with the rest in a suit and top hat and monocle. It reminds me of how even though the residents of the loop have the bodies of children, they are in fact quite elderly.  Sort of like the opposite of most of us. They are old of heart but young in body.

“We cling to our fairytales until the price for believing them becomes too high…”

The emotional impact of a fairytale, in my experience, is quite extraordinary.  We first hear them as young children, and are re-exposed to adaptations as we grow older, reinforcing lessons that evil can be defeated. However, believing in them in today’s age required tremendous effort – we are subjected to such harshness from the media believing that we can save the world can cause negative psychological impacts on our minds and so that we learn to accept that evil will never truly be defeated.  It will always return, in one form or another.

There is another link to mental health within the novel, as Jacob has regular appointments with a psychiatrist. Awareness is slowly increasing around mental illness but our current treatment methods seem skewered towards a nomothetic treatment approach-

 “Dr.Golan’s function seemed mainly to consist of writing prescriptions. Still having nightmares? I’ve got something for that.”

This may seem strange coming from a pharmacy student, but pills cannot solve everything, especially mental health disorders. Diagnosing someone with depression then putting them on antidepressants isn’t tackling the root cause of the symptoms.  If someone complained of chest pain, suggesting angina, you wouldn’t give them painkillers and send them on their way.  You would investigate what was happening to the patient and prescribe nitrates etc accordingly to prevent recurrence and stop the progression. It doesn’t make sense why so many drugs are prescribed and so few receiving therapy.

The changeover within the loop is also a favourite of mine. Jacob has seen the bombed home and the remains of interrupted lives that fled, but inside the loop it is different.  Bullets and bombs rained around their home as they sang and watched, a bomb suspended mid air. Never exploding due to the looping of time.

“This nightly assault had become such a regular part of their lives that they’d ceased to think of it as something terrifying – in fact, the photograph I’d seem of it in Miss Peregrine’s album had been labelled Our beautiful display.  And in its own morbid way, I suppose it was.”

They turned a grotesque event into an extraordinary display and time after time we as humans are able to transform our hardships into something else entirely – I will not remember how I felt during this pandemic, I will not remember the fear as the death toll rises. I will remember the rainbows in windows and the gratitude of the nation as we praise the NHS.  When life gives you lemons and all that.

Blog post question: If you were able to set up a loop, where and when would you establish one?