12 March 2011

What was lost

A week and a half ago I wrote about Room, in which a girl is lost and then found. This book, What was lost by Catherine O'Flynn, is as different as it is possible – but could be described in the same words.

So very much is lost, in this book.

Ten year old Kate Meaney lost her mother ten years ago, and now loses her father. Friendless, she haunts a nearby shopping mall with her father's last present: a book on how to be a detective. Around her are friendly neighbours who have lost their way. Then Kate, too, is lost.

Lisa, deputy manager of a music store in the Mall, who twenty years later finds Kate's toy monkey, has also lost her way – as have most of her staff. She has also lost her brother (literally), and her parents (figuratively).

Kurt, a security guard who spots Kate on the mall's CCTV system, has lost his way and his parents too ... he has also lost the love of his life. Those around him fear that he has lost his mind.

There are other characters; lost, in one way or another, every one of them.

And yet, it's not all gloom and doom. Much is also found. There is hope as well as loss. There is also warm humour. I'm glad to have read it, and will read it again with pleasure.

I'll leave you with a recommendation that you read it too, and with one of my favourite line from the book – it concerns Kate's primary teacher, who is (of course) lost like everyone else:

Mrs Finnegan, though criminally unsuited to teaching small children, was in fact a very fine mathematician.

  • Catherine O'Flynn, What was lost. 2007, Birmingham: Tindal Street. 9780955138416 or 0955138418 (pbk)

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