Little Boy Lost – Marghanita Laski

If there is a Persephone Classic that I think I have heard the most about it of course would be Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (which I still haven’t read though I will) because of the film. However if I think in blogging terms then the title I think I have heard the most about would have to be Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski. Over the last year or so I have seen wonderful reviews about it and how the last line, so don’t read that line first, will reduce you to a tearful wreck. Intrigued I had to give this book a go, would it be a case of so much hype it didn’t live up to what people said?

Little Boy Lost is the tale of Hilary Wainwright’s search for his son who has been lost in France. How could a child be lost in the wilderness like that, well it is France in the time of the War when the boy goes missing, so actually even easier than you would think and with his mother killed by the Gestapo a young boy might want to be lost or indeed purposefully lost. Hilary has indeed only seen his son once and that was when his baby boy was a day old, since then he has assumed that the boy is being looked after in France until he can go and collect him. On a Christmas night he finds out that this isn’t the case and so must, once the war is over, go and find his son where he may be.

This isn’t just the tale of a man looking for his lost child though. Through the novel Laski looks at what war can do to families, the politics and extremists behind war and the devastation it leaves behind once the battle is done. Not only in the cities like Paris but also, as the journey takes Hilary, in the countryside and surrounding area’s. It is also the tale of a man so used to pain and loss that he is cold to the world and in some ways this tale of a man finding himself and questioning if he can ever love again. It also looks, sometimes in quite a sickening and disturbing way at just what happened to children in the war and the plight of those that survived.

Now my thoughts so far make the book sound bleak and depressing and in some ways it is quite a solemn tale. I can’t of course say if this book has a happy ending or not, that is for you to get the book and find out. It is a very emotive book that will have you feeling quite bleak and yet you never stop reading, well I didn’t, as you so want to know just what happened to Hilary’s boy. Did it make me cry, not quite, though it put me through the emotional ringer and no mistake. It also made me angry, unless you have read the book I can’t really say why (helpful that) but there is a point where Hilary has to make a decision and I was almost screaming at the pages for him to do what I thought was right and a book hasn’t made me feel like that in some time. That’s a good thing in case you were wondering.

I thought Laski’s writing was wonderful, emotive, atmospheric you name it she could probably write it and I definitely want to read much more of her work. It’s a book that needs to be read by people as it hammers into your mind the effects of war, whilst also being an emotional tale anyway, and was doing so way before the wondrous books like The Book Thief or The Boy in the Stripped Pyjama’s did, unlike the latter though it didn’t make me cry at the end nor the last lines hit my as hard, I think that was partly because I had read in advance it should. I thought it was an amazing book though and most definitely a classic novel that should never be forgotten or lost.


Filed under Books of 2009, Marghanita Laski, Persephone Books, Review

22 responses to “Little Boy Lost – Marghanita Laski

  1. I didn’t think this was one of my favourite Persephone titles – it didn’t grip me as much as some others, which I know makes me at odds with everyone else. I am however looking forward to her latest title (whenever TBD deigns to get it back in stock and deliver it to me!)

    • I enjoyed this a huge amount, like you I wouldnt say its my favourite Persephone as The Shuttle definately has that title for now. I say for now as I have only read three of the delightful gems.

  2. Wow! Crying, screaming, the War, a lost child…this is right up my alley! Seriously. It is a sign of a good book if you are wrung out at the end. I love it.

  3. I’m so glad that you loved this. A book that can put you through the emotional ringer is a great thing indeed. I completely understand your point about Hilary; I was so angry, disgusted and frustrated with him. I think it surpassed The Shuttle for me (just and that’s because of the emotive response) but not Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary, which remains my favourite Persephone so far.

  4. I’ve never heard of this book but it sounds amazing. I’m always fascinated by books about the past, fact or fiction. Another one I think for my ever growing to read list!

  5. For some reason I have stayed clear of this title. It didn’t even make it into my third round Persephone priority list. But after reading your review I am starting to rethink my aversion to the synopsis and am closer to putting it on my list.

    • I dont mean this rudely to Persephone as I think they are wonderful but I wouldnt have rushed to get this one either from the blurb. But as it was in the library, and Persephone’s are like gold dust there, I thought ‘ooooh why not?’ I am glad I gave it a whirl.

  6. Jo

    I’m avoiding this one, mainly because everyone seems to suggest it will be so emotional. You really haven’t helped with that (!), but I am starting to think I should read this. My library has this, but I think perhaps it’s one I should own (so I can work up to it)

    • Oh don’t avoid it sometimes we really need books like this to push us and it does. I havent gotten so angry with a book and a character in such a long time and its, as other people have said, a good sign of a good book.

  7. Hi, Simon! Too bad that our bookstores here in Manila don’t have Persophone books. I really want to read this one.

  8. Harriet

    I think it sounds great. I will certainly look out for it.

  9. Need to add this to my list.

    Real life: A family friend went to Spain to look for her sister, a nun, who was lost during the time that Franco was fighting.

    The convent had been demolished! She wasn’t sure where it had stood. And, of course, she never found her sister.

    • Isabel as the afterword discusses in the book this book was indeed based on real life cases such as the one you have described. I think reading that after gave the book an added poignancy.

  10. This sounds fab! Mind you, I’m really really really not buying any more books for quite some time. I’ve been shocked by the numbers in my TBR pile(s) — I reckon I’ve got at least six years’ worth of reading there without ever having to buy another book!! How shocking is that?

    • It is very very good Kim. I think what I liked about it most was how was such a different way of discussing the war and those affected.

      I worked out that I have about six years of reading material in my TBR piles which is slightly daunting… and yet wonderful all at once.

  11. This is actually one of the top ones from the Persephone list that attracted me. However, I got something else to read (doesn’t that happen when you are ordering and you finally purchase something you hadn’t been meaning to and then left out the ones you most want to get?). Anyway, I must admit I only read your first paragraph and your last, as I don’t want to read anything about it! I like to be surprised. I also didn’t read the other reviews of this fully (from Persephone week).. afraid of spoilers! So when I’m done with it, will get back to reading your complete thoughts. But happy that you liked it!!

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