HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Book Review: Catherine O’Flynn – What Was Lost

Posted by HelenEdith on March 13, 2009

I generally confine myself to the genre shelves in the library, where I can find science fiction if that is what I fancy; or romance; or crime. However, a few weeks ago I made a rare foray into the “General Fiction” shelves and this book was one of those that I came up with.

In addition to not having a genre sticker on its spine, the front cover announces that it is the winner of the Costa First Novel Award, was shorlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Broadband Prize. That’s a lot of critical acclaim – enough to scare me right away from a book! Fortunately it didn’t, as this turned out to be eminently readable.

The story is in four parts: the first and third of which are set in 1984 and follow the story of Kate Meaney, a little girl with a passion for detective work who frequents the Green Oaks shopping centre in Birmingham, taking notes about people she thinks are suspicious. The second part is set in 2003, where the main characters are the security guard Kurt and the record shop duty manager Lisa. Kate disappeared back in 1984 and Lisa’s brother Adrian was suspected of being involved although never charged. Kurt starts seeing Kate on the security cameras at Green Oaks, and when his path crosses with Lisa’s late one night when her usual exit from the centre is locked, they start to realise that Kate affects both their lives. The final part is set in 2004, where the elements of the first three parts are pulled together and we finally discover what really happened to Kate.

This wasn’t as fast-paced as some of my more usual reading matter, and the point of some of the early chapters took some time to emerge, but the book was easy to read and it will be interesting to see what Catherine O’Flynn can produce in her second and subsequent novels, assuming that she continues to write.


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