The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumiere

9/10 An enticing, enigmatic read that's more than worth a few hours of your time.

On her tenth birthday, Aydee runs away from home and from her neglectful parents. At first, surviving alone on the streets is harsh, but a series of frightening, bewildering encounters with strange primordial creatures leads her to a bookshop called Lost Pages, where she steps into a fantastic, sometimes dangerous, but exciting life. Aydee grows up at the reality-hopping Lost Pages, which seems to attract a clientele that is both eccentric and desperate. She is repeatedly drawn into an eternal war between enigmatic gods and monsters, until the day she is confronted by her worst nightmare: herself.

Experienced editor and journalist Claude Lalumiere published his first book, a collection of short stories entitled Objects of Worship, in 2009, and it released to much critical acclaim. His follow up, The Door to Lost Pages, is therefore only his second book length publication. Having not read his previous work or been familiar with his writing as a reviewer or journalist, I had very little idea of what to expect.

What I got was a wondrous mix of mythology, fantasy, eroticism and adventure, all compressed comfortably into a novella of only 200 pages. Lalumiere’s vision begins in Miltonesque style, with the evil god Yamesh-Lot reanimating dead bodies to help him break into the dreams of humans and fill them with nightmares. While Yamesh-Lot is vividly painted throughout the majority of the book, the protector of the people, The Green Blue and Brown God, is portrayed in far less definite ways: a stranger with green and brown hair, a multi-coloured feather, the name of a pet. Symbolism is therefore a strong theme throughout and it serves to add texture to an already intriguing read.

But above all this mythology, we have stories of people. First Aydee and Lucas, then Kurt, Sandra, and one or two unnamed men, one of whom may be Lalumiere himself. Each person is affected by Yamesh-Lot, The Green Blue and Brown God, and, in one way or another, the ‘Lost Pages’ book shop. While some characters may be more fortunate than others, each is on a journey of escapism, with Lost Pages at the heart of their flight. Lalumiere deftly presents each character’s tale with individual style and flair, making them equally distinctive and enjoyable.

However, it is the superb intertwining of the fantastical and the real where the pleasure in Lalumiere’s novella truly lies. His final tale, in which we follow the author of the ‘Lost Pages’ stories (his own perhaps), sees the character look out his window to see a different building across the road each day. While nobody else can see the change, for him it is dramatic – one day it’s a house, the next a hair salon, then it’s a park, and at some point it’s a gaping hole in the ground with black tendrils reaching out of it. It’s surreal, disturbing and one of the novel’s best chapters.

The Door to Lost Pages is rich and textured with a mythology that is superbly fantastical and entirely absorbing (the tale of Behl Jezath’s banishment from the Green Blue and Brown God is brilliant). Lalumiere’s various characters and their predicaments are designed to resonate with different people and I find it hard to imagine this could not be the case.

While the symbolism of his scenarios can at times feel ambiguous, and the individual tales occasionally feel a little too much like independent stories, the overall effect is truly masterful.

The very definition of weird and wonderful, The Door to Lost Pages is an enticing, enigmatic read that’s more than worth a few hours of your time.

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