Thursday, March 4, 2010
Little Boy Lost
An e-friend sent me Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski earlier this year. As you can see she placed a yellow post-it note on the cover with just one word scribbled on it - 'wonderful.' And indeed it is rather wonderful. Little Boy Lost is a masterpiece. It's a beautiful and poignant novel.
Little Boy Lost is the story of Hilary Wainright who lost his wife during the war. His baby son, whom he saw only once was whisked away by an unknown person. Years later, a friend of his late wife contacts him because a five-year-old boy at a French orphanage may or may not be his child. This is the story of one man's search for his son in a devastated and post-war torn France but it's also the story of one man's search for himself. The little boy in the title is Hilary who has lost so much during the war that he's afraid to love again because to love means opening yourself up not just for happiness but for pain.
It's such a travesty that this book isn't more readily available and it's wonderful that Persephone books has brought it back for a new generation of readers to enjoy. I think it's a must read not just because of its beautiful and touching story but because it encapsulates a time in the history of Europe, after world war two. The story of the people who lost so much during the war. The story of the war orphans left behind. This was written in 1949 so Laski who also spent time in France, lived through this period and she accurately describes the devastation of France and the lost illusion and guilt of its countrymen. Somehow this can never be captured in a novel written today about the same era. A writer today who writes about that period is only working from history books and second hand accounts of people who lived then. Laski was there.
Laski perfectly describes Hilary's emotional turmoil. Is this his son or isn't it? Does he even want the child to be his son? Hilary has spent the last few years getting used to a life without love, without emotion. Can he truly open himself up again? The suspense builds up towards the end when it's time for Hilary to make a decision. As usual, I don't want to give away too much but it will be a hard-hearted reader who isn't swept away by this emotional and wonderful novel.
If you read only one Persephone Book, then please let it be this one. Highly recommended.