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.

26 comments:

  1. As it happens I bought this a few weeks ago, and this has just reminded me how much I want to read it. I read my first Persephone book last year (Dorothy Whipple's 'Someone at a Distance') and it's made me hungry for more!

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  2. Oh, I very much enjoyed your review! I read Little Boy Lost a little while ago and absolutely loved it. So glad you enjoyed it too.

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  3. @Kirsty - Anything by Dorothy Whipple is wonderful but I found Little Boy Lost to be more accessible to non-Persephone readers (i.e. my husband read it and loved it too).

    @skirmishofwit - Thanks! It is a wonderful read.

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  4. What a great review. May I please borrow this? :)

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  5. @tashie's mommy - Nice to see you commenting! Yes, of course you may borrow this. I'll bring it tomorrow.

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  6. For some reason I have avoided this book when placing my Persephone orders. After reading your review I wish that that had not been the case.

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  7. I'd planned on reading another Dorothy Whipple for my next Persephone... now I'm not so sure.

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  8. Wonderful review! I'll have to look around for a copy to add to the TBR pile. Thanks!

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  9. @Thomas - Do list this book in your next Persephone order. I think you'll love it. I also avoided this book for some reason and I only read it now because it had been given to me.

    @JoAnn - Whipple is wonderful. I can't really compare this book with any of hers. It's different.

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  10. I agree that this is the book that every non-Persephonite should read as it is so accessible.

    I am going to say something controversial... Marghanita Laski is quickly becoming my favourite Persephone author and may overtake Whipple in my affection. I love how eclectic and insightful her titles are as well as having the raw intensity of Whipple; in my opinion her books offer that much more and to a wide readership whereas Whipple -however much I love her- is rooted in the domestic.

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  11. But who would want to read just ONE Persephone book? ;)

    I don't think I've heard much about this title, but you've definitely intrigued me. I have a few Persephones in the TBR pile, but sadly not this one. Maybe one day!

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  12. I'm another who avoided this book - perhaps because of the emotional, heart-wrenching tale. I tended to go for uplifting books but after your moving review, it's moving onto my TBR list :-) Thank you!

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  13. @Paperback Reader - Claire..that's an interesting comment. I've only read one other Laski, The Victorian Chaise-Longue and though I thought it was good, it's not one of my favourite Persephones. I'm really keen to read To Bed With Grand Music though.

    @Steph - I don't think Persephones are for everyone. I'm sure the ones you have are in your TBR are all good.

    @Rochester Reader - Yes, definitely read this. I think it's a must-read.

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  14. This is one of my favourite Persephones. You're so right that it's the immediacy of Laski writing at the time of the events that's so affecting. That's what I love about Persephone books. The WWII books were written at the time, sometimes before the war ended & the outcome was still uncertain. The emotion of the ending is almost overwhelming yet never sentimental. This is such a good read it would be a perfect introduction to Persephone.

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  15. Great review! I'm definitely going to look for this book now, it sounds like a must-read.

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  16. Thank you for sharing this, I have heard good things about this book and you have just re-inforced them for me. I must try and get hold of a copy.

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  17. Great review. I'm definitely on the lookout for this.

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  18. Mrs B what a great review, I have not read this one but will in the future, I did actually buy a copy as a gift for someone who was not yet a Persephone reader and meant to read it myself first but ran out of time. I am also interested in reading To Bed with Grand Music, Laski is an intriguing author, I found Victorian Chaise-Longue to be an interesting read.

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  19. What a wonderful review. I think this will be the next Persephone I get.

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  20. I liked this book, but I thought the very very end bit was a little too heavy-handed. I would have liked it better if they had left some ambiguity about whether the child was his son or not. Is that just me being curmudgeonly? Did you have the same reaction? (she said hopefully)

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  21. This wasn't actually my favourite Laski - in fact, I think it was my least favourite, althopugh it is years since i read The village. To bed with and Victorian Chaise Longue just somehow fitted my taste more. Have you read any other Laski's?

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  22. This sounds absolutely fascinating and your review was an interesting read. I'll have to keep an eye out for this one.

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  23. What a wonderful review! I adored this too - absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful. I just finished The Victorian Chaise Longue today - a totally different kettle of fish but just as well written!

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  24. I love when friends pass along books with notes like that! A coworker recently left a book on my desk that said: "Enjoyed it. You will, too." She was right!

    This sounds like a great, moving novel... I'll put it on the wishlist!

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  25. I found this book in the library last year. The last person to check it out was in 1972! What a great book though. Without giving to much away I was emotionally exhausted by the end of it.

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  26. I decided to read this after last year's Persephone Reading Week... still hasn't happened, so I think I'll read it during *this* year's Persephone Reading Week!

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