Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past by Ransom Riggs

I first heard about Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past when I read a review of it on the now-defunct epinions.com. I enjoyed the review, and since I was familiar with Talking Picture’s author Ransom Riggs, I wanted to read the book for myself.

Ransom Riggs is best known for his young adult novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and its sequel Hollow City. The inspiration for Miss Peregrine’s Home was a series of old photographs that showed children doing fantastic things, like appearing to levitate. He crafted a wonderful story about these peculiar children and the lives that they led.

With Talking Pictures, Riggs shares a collection of photographs that he has found. They are divided into categories, like Love and Marriage and Life During Wartime. Many of the pictures are funny. We might think of bygone generations as being more proper, but these pictures would suggest otherwise. One photo shows two girls with the caption “Drunk but Happy”, and there are plenty of photos with bawdy captions. It’s fascinating to think about the people in the photographs and who they were and what kind of lives they led.

Some of the photos are sad. There are several pictures of handsome young men in old uniforms with the caption that they were killed in combat. One particular segment was absolutely haunting. They were of a pretty little girl named Janet Lee. We first see Janet smiling with her Raggedy Anne doll, but the captions on the photos tell a sad story about a little girl who is sick. The photo of Janet in her casket with her Raggedy Anne doll was absolutely heartbreaking.

I would recommend Talking Pictures. This is a wonderful collection of pictures. They are thought provoking and utterly fascinating. This is a great coffee table type book. It’s the sort of book that you can pick up and leaf through. The chapters do not need to be read in order, and even though I’ve read the book a couple of times, there is still something new to see. It certainly gives me a new perceptive on bygone days.

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