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What Was Lost [Paperback]

Catherine O'Flynn
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2008
The 1980s: Ten-year-old Kate Meaney - with her 'Top Secret' notebook and Mickey her toy monkey - is busy being a junior detective. She observes goings-on and follows 'suspects' at the newly opened Green Oaks shopping centre and in her street, where she is friends with the newsagent's son, Adrian. But when this curious, independent-spirited young girl disappears, Adrian falls under suspicion and is hounded out of his home by the press.Then, in 2004, Lisa is working as a deputy manager at Your Music, a cut-price record store. Every day, under the watchful eye of the CCTV, she tears her hair out at the behaviour of her customers and colleagues. But when she meets security guard Kurt, she becomes entranced by the little girl he keeps glimpsing on the centre's CCTV. As their after-hours friendship intensifies, they investigate how these sightings might be connected to the unsettling history of Green Oaks.


Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Tindal Street (1 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0955647649
  • ISBN-13: 978-0955647642
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 264,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A superb, haunting novel from a new literary talent (Daily Mail)

An exceptional, polyphonic novel (The Guardian)

Contemporary literary prose at its finest (Publishing News) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

WINNER OF THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2007

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
147 of 152 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classy piece of writing 20 Aug 2007
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
What Was Lost starts with a very bold move - a narrative told by a small girl who works as a private detective, helped by her cuddly monkey Mickey. It is a brave writer indeed who starts with such a ridiculous premise. But Catherine O'Flynn pulls it off and as the first section develops, it becomes clear that the girl - Kate Meaney - has a troubled homelife and a burning desire to escape it. She duly spends time engaged in surveillance at Green Oaks, the newly built shopping centre.

Then, in a sudden jump of twenty years, the narrative focuses on Lisa, the duty manager at a record store in Green Oaks. It becomes clear that Kate disappeared all those years ago, and whilst she has been largely forgotten, she has started to haunt the memories of those few people to have noticed her in her last days. Self evidently, the narrative eventually reveals Kate's fate.

The star of the show, though, is Green Oaks itself. Shopping centres are brilliant places (like airports). Shiny and colourful on the public side, but with a hidden belly of service corridors, stockrooms, offices, security systems and such like. They have a ready made cast, both of people working there or people passing through: customers, thieves, drifters, lunatics... Some chapters end with rather brilliant - and irrelevant - monologues from some of those who spend time in and around the shopping centre. A particular gem is the mystery shopper. Then there are also the dialogues between staff and challenging customers - for example, the chap who has had a classical music cassette on order for 23 months and has been strung along by the store assistant just for fun. This element of the novel plays like a Magnus Mills work - utterly deadpan in the absurdity of the situation.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply beautiful...too good to be that easy 23 May 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I just finished reading this book today and I almost cried. Corny, I know but it's indicative of a great book when the reader is reluctant to let the characters 'go' at the end. 'What was lost' is about how various characters are drawn together by the disappearance of a little girl. It's really about the misery of human existence when you let resignation and indifference set in. Great characterisation, which is something I adore in fiction and good TV/Film. It reminds me of 'Purple Hibiscus' in the sense that it can articulate in such a beautiful way the banalities of everyday life but not make them sound mundane and inconsequential. I guess it's these things that kill the soul slowly if we're not careful.

As has already been pointed out there is a good dose of acerbic wit. From underhanded subtle quips about 'Daily Mail' readers, observations of sadistic primary school teachers to the careful descriptions of customers in all their idiosyncratic glory.

I think the denouement of the book came together beautifully. Despite the macabre twist there are little hints of hope for the future of some of the more tormented characters.

There are many readable novels out there. Still it takes a book like this, executed in such a simple but effective way, seemingly effortless, to remind you there are some writers who belong in a class of their own. I hope Ms O'Flynn's future offerings live up to the promise.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read 3 Jan 2008
Format:Paperback
What Was Lost is the story of the disappearance of Kate Meaney, a most appealing ten year old who spends her free time learning to be a detective. The story starts in the early 1980s as she spends much of her out of school time at Green Oaks shopping centre in Birmingham. Here she watches and makes notes on suspicious looking people and events.

As the story progresses, Green Oaks itself becomes the glue of the novel as most of the action takes place here. The Shopping Centre seems to have a life of its own and the author succeeds in giving a real flavour of the place through some of the people who work there and are tied up in Kate Meaney's story whether in the early 80s or 20 years later.

I found the story gripping and warm and wanted to hear more about the people involved. I would thoroughly recommend this book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful story 30 July 2008
By Mrs. Katharine Kirby TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A delightfully complete read with an intriguing new angle on shopping evolution. Immediately you feel at home in Kate's company and enjoy her innocent way of looking at the world around her - it is such a funny book as well as being a mystery, a psychological thriller and a romantic story.
The idea of a shopping centre having something in common with vast old cathedrals and medieval buildings is a thoughtful touch. The thoughts that pass through the minds of the shoppers and other occupants of the building are utterly realistic.
The characters are all right on target, their regrets, fears and inhibitions all too understandable.
I loved it, read it in a day and hurried to lend it on. A fresh and friendly read with good human stories that linger in the mind afterwards. Everything falls into place.....
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable - a detective novel with a twist 25 Jun 2008
By D1HAJ
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Immediately engaging, intriguing and ultimately an interesting, thought-provoking read. Don't let the easy narrative style fool you: this is no teenage detective novel - it is a subtle exploration of escape, hardship, loss and the intertwining of individuals' lives - seemingly fleeting contacts having lasting consequences and different stories and interpretations of what is lost within families, schools and communities.

I loved this book. Virtually read it non-stop, in a single day. Unputdownable. Amusing in parts. Illuminating in places (I for one have never wandered the back corridors of my local shopping mall) and with a commentary on social and political change in Britain in the 1980s. Highly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Cheap Complicated Book
This is the strangest book I have ever read its very complicated jumped from one part of the story to another
Published 2 months ago by Allwyn Hatch
4.0 out of 5 stars Depressing but brilliant
Oh so sad but you had to guess that she was not going to have survived. Some of the paragraphs were a little strange. Despair throughout the book was obvious. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Karen 2102
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it
I bought this book whilst on holiday in Brighton and can honestly say for me, probably up there at the top of my must read books. Emotional reading. Brilliant.
Published 3 months ago by avenellle
5.0 out of 5 stars Substantial Simplicity
I made this purchase purely in the light of the many positive comments already out there - I didn't think it sounded like my kind of story. How glad am I... Read more
Published 6 months ago by CLA
5.0 out of 5 stars surprising twists and turns
The sparse urban landscape was a superb aspect of the story. Characters were well drawn, stop and start with each participator worked well.
Published 6 months ago by Sue Curd
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully welcome surprise
A superb debut. Shifting between 1984 and 2003, this is a mystery unfolding with a lot of warmth, humour and a few unexpected twists thrown in. Read more
Published 7 months ago by marianna
3.0 out of 5 stars Mall Contents
A not-so-fictional Birmingham shopping centre is the setting for this tale of loss and longing. The time-frame switches backwards and forwards from the innocent, optimistic days of... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Roger Risborough
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching and Thoughtful
The star of the novel is a shopping centre, where the different characters are caught like flies in a web. Read more
Published 8 months ago by gerardpeter
4.0 out of 5 stars What Was Lost?
I agree with so much that's been said here, from the 5 star reviews down to the 2 stars, the good and the bad of it all, and what sticks out to me is how this book has moved people... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mrs. N. Harris
4.0 out of 5 stars gripping story
I really enjoyed this book and found it hard to put down. It was an easy read, and it was funny in places, in particular when describing events/people that are observed and from... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jennifer
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