“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.”
The debut novel by Ransom Riggs, originally published in 2011, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a young adult book that combines a collection of vintage photographs with a narrative led by Jacob, a teenage boy who follows clues from his grandfather’s old photographs. Led to a large, abandoned orphanage on a Welsh island, Jacob begins an adventure that spans different worlds and times. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and about their special powers, as well as the powers of their enemies. Chosen to protect the Peculiar Children, Jacob must discover his own power to save his new friends from the nightmarish Hollows and Wights, who are led by the mysterious Mr Barron.
Set to be released on 30th September, the film adaptation is directed by Tim Burton and stars Asa Butterfield as Jacob, Eva Green as Miss Peregrine, and Samuel L. Jackson as Mr Barron.
The following post is a review of the book only, looking at how it is going to be adapted. You can read my review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book soon.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a book that you will want to read as soon as you have picked it up off of the shelf. With a beautiful production of its ghostly front cover and the use of high-quality photographs scattered inside, the whole look and feel of this book makes you want to jump into this intriguing world of peculiarity straight away. Even minutes after buying this book I found myself hooked and not wanting to put it down, restless to dive in as soon as I could to find out what these disturbingly creepy pictures were all about.
Combining real-life vintage photographs, taken from various personal collections, with a complex and well-developed fictional story, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is an incredibly unique and intriguing read. For a young adult book, this is one of the most mature stories I have experienced in a long while. Whilst this fantasy is based around a group of children, there are many adult themes and a dark tone that runs throughout, ensuring that older readers will be just as invested from start to finish.
Full of inventive mystery, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children may be slow-paced at times, but the bleakly curious atmosphere keeps you both engaged and on the edge of your seat, as you enter a world full of imagination and uncomfortable tension. The use of the real-life pictures, as well – knowing that they are real and that they have their own mystery behind them – make the story even more creepy, as they bring these fictional characters to life, despite their quirky attributes and setting.
It’s not often that a story filled with such fantasy can feel so real, especially with the large focuses on time-travel, eternal life, gory human-eating monsters, and the special abilities of its main characters, but Riggs uses such brilliant descriptions and detail that it’s easy to picture yourself amongst these Peculiar children and the magic of their haunted house.
My only annoyance with the book is that I didn’t realise that it was a part of a trilogy, so it was frustrating to realise that a conclusion wasn’t going to be met as I reached the final few chapters. However, this first book does end on an exciting point in the story, so you’ll definitely want to carry on the journey with Jacob and his new friends as soon as you have put it down.
With Riggs creating such a well-crafted world with his impressive writing style, I can’t wait to see how his characters and visuals will be brought to life on the big screen, making this a film adaptation that is definitely worth looking forward to.
When reading this book, the first director who comes to mind for adapting this story is unarguably Tim Burton, so it couldn’t be in better suited hands for the book’s dark fantasy themes.
That being said, Burton has had his fair share of flops. Some of his films I absolutely love – Edward Scissorhands (1990), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) – but some of his live-action adaptations and re-tellings have absolutely frustrated me at the same time – yes, I do mean Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010).
However, his most recent films put Burton back on a good track, with his excellent handling of the real-life story Big Eyes (2014), the undead animation Frankenweenie (2012), and the vampire comedy Dark Shadows (2012), which perfectly shows how he can handle different subjects and styles of film-making with ease.
Although his films can range in quality quite drastically, most of his films can be deemed as absolute classics, so there’s no doubting that he can handle this genre to its full potential. My only concern is with how much his adaptation will come across as a children’s film, when the book verges on adult horror with its intense creepiness, despite the young cast of characters and young adult themes.
Leading the film as Jacob is rising star Asa Butterfield, known for his roles in 2011’s Hugo and 2013’s film adaptation of Ender’s Game, as well as for his fantastic performance in the emotional war drama The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, which he filmed when he was only 10 years old. Butterfield is the perfect actor for this role and has exactly the right amount of quirky gothiness for a Tim Burton film, and for the character of Jacob from the book, as well, so we’re off to a good start already.
Miss Peregrine will then be played by Eva Green, another brilliant bit of casting. Known for her roles in films including Casino Royale, Burton’s Dark Shadows, and 300: Rise of an Empire, Green always gives a powerful performance and has all of the characteristics of the book’s headmistress that will make Miss Peregrine a captivating watch.
As for the peculiar children, there are a few noticeable differences from the book straight away, both in visuals and in changes of their powers. Ella Purnell plays the leading younger female as Emma who has, from the look of the trailer, the ability to manipulate air. Whilst her character looks well suited for her description in the book, she is supposed to have the ability to create fire, but it appears that she has switched powers with Olive, who is set to be played by Lauren McCrostie.
These changes are likely to be because Emma will have more screen time, so giving her the power to float instead of being able to create fire will probably be because of certain changes made to reduce the film adaptation’s runtime. However, Olive’s power in the book is that she can merely float, so the scenes seen in the trailer underwater where Emma can breathe underwater and create liquid bubbles must be added for visual effects only.
However, despite the switch in powers, Emma and Olive’s characters should remain the same as they do in the book, and I can’t wait to see what Purnell, especially, has to bring to her role. It looks as if she and Butterfield have a great chemistry together already, and they’re both brilliant young stars to have as the leading faces of this adaptation, who both suit the aesthetics of this film incredibly well.
The other peculiar children include Cameron King as Millard, an invisible boy, Pixie Davies as Bronwyn, a inhumanely strong child (who is much more boyish in the book), Georgia Pemberton as Fiona, a teenager who can control and maintain plants (who is also much scruffier looking in the book), Finlay MacMillan as Enoch, a teenager who can resurrect the dead, Milo Parker as Hugh, a teenager who has a beehive in his stomach, Raffiella Chapman as Claire, a girl with an extra mouth hidden in the back of her hair (who looks perfect in her role), Hayden Keeler-Stone as Horace, a teenager with prophetic dreams, and Louis Davison as Victor, the late brother of Bronwyn who has the same peculiarity.
Additional adult roles include Chris O’Dowd as Jacob’s father and Terence Stamp as his grandfather, who both suit their character’s qualities well, too.
Samuel L. Jackson will then play Mr Barron, the leader of the Wights, and Allison Janney as Dr Golan, Jacob’s psychiatrist. For those who have read the book, this casting may cause some confusion since Golan is a male character but, whilst the change in sexes doesn’t necessarily matter at first, it may cause problems towards the end of the story, which I will not go on to spoil.
Nevertheless, I’ve always enjoyed Janney and I think she will bring in a lot of humour to the film, and you can never be disappointed with the casting of Samuel L. Jackson, who I can actually really picture as Barron, even if he doesn’t necessarily fit the limited description of his character in the book.
And finally, Judi Dench is set to play Miss Avocet, another headmistress of a different Home for Peculiar Children. With such a big name being cast for her character, I imagine we will get to see more of her than we do in the book, and hopefully a little glimpse of her home, as well.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is set to be released in cinemas on 30th September.