A lot of people have old photographs, hidden away somewhere in their homes – of their family, their friends, their childhood. Well, the writer of this book does too. The difference is that his photographs are not of people he knows or anyone in his family knows. They are of strangers. He buys them at flea markets, which I never knew was a possibility that someone might be interested in until I saw this Youtube video a couple of years ago.
From this peculiar hobby grew the idea for a peculiar book. Ransom Riggs, who is a friend of John Green by the way, gathered some of his favourite photos and put them together. Then he wrote a story to go with them and it’s a mysterious, creepy young adult story that involves time travel, super powers and Wales. I bought the book shortly after I saw the video, as it had spiked my interest. The feeling of sorting through other people’s photographs, people you don’t know and who are most likely already dead, is not easy to describe. It’s an intrusion of privacy and a nostalgia for something you’ve never known at the same time. The story focuses on the mystery and puts the pictures in an entirely different and fictional context. It is very obvious from reading it that the book started with the photographs and the story grew around it and changed to accommodate them. There is also a second part and a third on the way, which I will be buying as soon as possible.
Following the author’s example and my conviction that the right book is the best present, I put this one in a context of my own. Shortly after I read it, a friend of mine was leaving and I decided that this should be the book I use to say goodbye to her. So I wrote my message in there and gave it to her before she left, knowing full well that I had picked the right quote for what she was going through. She read it all on the plane ride home. I managed to make her cry, which I guess means I made the right choice for a parting present.
People find inspiration in the strangest of things, don’t they?