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73 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orphans of war
This wonderful book is the story of a man's search for his son, lost in France during WWII. On a deeper level, it is the story of a man's search for himself, rediscovering his capacity for love after the experiences of war. Hilary Wainwright saw his son John just once, the day after he was born in Paris. Hilary's wife Lisa was working for the Resistance and was captured...
Published on 20 Sep 2001 by Lynette Baines

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3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I was persuaded to read this book after reading a review which said that the father's quest to find his boy was thrilling; I didn't find the book was that exciting. I wasn't very fond of the main character, who was supposed to be humbled by his experience but I felt remained pompous to the end. I know the book is meant to be measured and understated to reflect the...
Published 1 month ago by Elrington


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73 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orphans of war, 20 Sep 2001
By 
Lynette Baines (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Little Boy Lost (Paperback)
This wonderful book is the story of a man's search for his son, lost in France during WWII. On a deeper level, it is the story of a man's search for himself, rediscovering his capacity for love after the experiences of war. Hilary Wainwright saw his son John just once, the day after he was born in Paris. Hilary's wife Lisa was working for the Resistance and was captured and killed by the Gestapo when John was a baby, and the child disappeared. After the war, Hilary is contacted by Pierre, a friend of Lisa's, with news of a child who may be John. Hilary sets out to find this child. His search takes him through the devastated French countryside to the small town where the child lives in an orphanage. Hilary's growing relationship with little Jean (the name given to the child) is very moving. Hilary's resistance to love, to being hurt again is vividly portrayed. Jean is a delightful child, a representative of the many thousands of children left orphaned and lost by war. The reader longs for these two lost souls to fall into each other's arms. By the end of the novel, I didn't care whether Jean was Hilary's son or not. The unsentimental yet deeply moving style of the novel is totally engrossing, once started, I could hardly bear put it down.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I could have cried..., 2 Mar 2007
By 
A. Hope "bookcrossing ali" (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Little Boy Lost (Paperback)
...and I don't cry over books as a rule. I don't know quite how to describe this lovely book - execept to say it is almost unbearably poignant at times. Originally published in 1949 - it tells the story of Hilary Wainwright and the search for his young son. In 1942 Hilary learns his son - who he believed was being cared for by a woman in occupied France, and who had rescued the child following Hilary's wife's death - is in fact lost, possibly somewhere in France. In 1945 Hilary goes in search of his son, with the help of a french man Pierre. But Hilary is a tortured soul - a poet - he now finds himself resistant to feelings of love since his wifes death, and wonders if he really wants this child at all. I found this such a wonderfuly moving book, and one that at times made me furious too, and I had to put it down and walk away from it at times. It is however hugely memorable, and the sort of book I will read again.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books... ever, 2 May 2006
By 
H. Nash (Abingdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Little Boy Lost (Paperback)
I can't begin to praise this book enough. I am a critical reader and I read a lot, and for this to be in my top ten it has to be something special. I keep on recommending it; to be honest, I beg people to read it because it it so good - and it's short, so quick to read! It is beautifully written, restrained and controlled in style, as it deals with a man's search for his missing son. This war-damaged man, bereaved and unable to express love, is as moving a creation as the little boy, Jean, who may be his son. The scenes where they go for walks together, especially when the man gives the boy a gift, are touching and yet never sentimental. The picture of post-war France is also unforgettable. It is impossible to put down and also has one of the most perfect (ie fitting) endings I have ever read (So many books just don't end well...). Once you've read and enjoyed it, try more Persephone books - they are fantastic!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A big decision, 7 May 2010
By 
Boof (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Little Boy Lost (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
What a fabulous little book, yet again, from Marghanita Laski. I only read The Victorian Chaise-Longue a month or so ago so when I saw this book in a random independent bookshop in Whitby I snatched it off the shelf eagerly.

The book starts at Christmas in England with Hilary Wainwright enjoying a family day at his Mothers house when there is a knock at the door. A weary French man introduces himself as Pierre and tells him that the son Hilary had only seen once the day after he was born (to his French wife, Lisa) is missing and he wants to help find him. Hilary knows that Lisa was killed by the Gestapo but he has never known what happened to his son.

Fast forward two year, after the war (WW2), Hilary sets off for Paris to meet Pierre and hear of his progress in the search for his little boy. The Paris that Hilary once knew is not the Paris that he is now confronted with as he steps off the bus into the rubble. Laski depicts the once vibrant and bustling city that has been reduced to decay brilliantly: she managed to convey the fact that there was an entire loss of culture as well as just buildings and streets. It wasn't the Paris I know and love today and it wasn't the Paris that Hilary had known and loved before the war.

The story then moves to a town further North in France (only named A____) in the book, where Hilary is following up a lead from Pierre that his son had been taken to an orphanage there. Hilary now has to face the fact that not only is his beloved France changed but so, maybe, are his feelings towards the son he had alway longed for. What if he didn't know if the child was his or not? How could he be sure? And did he still want the child? Hilary states a few times that he doesn't want to he hurt again, that he can't experience that loss again, and maybe he should forget about the boy and go back to England.

As his daily visits to the orphanage (orchestrated by the nuns under a cover story), Hilary must decide what he really wants and if the boy does turn out to be his son, does he want his as a part of his life?

Little Boy Lost is a wonderful book: it skips along at a lively pace that keeps your interest entirely but is gentle enough to allow you to ponder the the potential outcomes and appreciate the clarity of the narrative the all the while. And, as with The Victorian Chaise-Longue, the very last sentence packs such a wallop!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving story so well told, 5 Dec 2008
By 
Miss Mapp (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Little Boy Lost (Paperback)
This book is one of the most moving I have read. Marghanita Laski writes beautifully, and transports the reader to post-war France which becomes a vivid backdrop to the poignant story of Hilary and his hunt for his lost child. The character of the boy and his circumstances are so powerfully described as to be truly heart rending.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not my usual read, 5 Dec 2008
By 
Michael Ward (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Little Boy Lost (Paperback)
I was persuaded to read this short book by my wife. I protested in vain, but having now read it I am so grateful she persisted. The story is as described elsewhere and is beautifully written and very moving. The behaviour of the prime character, Hiliary, and particularly the tussle between his base needs and his deeper desires, is brilliantly and movingly described. The ending is a masterpiece. I shall have to listen to my wife's book recommendations in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Involving and Emotive Read, 17 Dec 2013
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Little Boy Lost (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
On Christmas day in 1943, at his mother's home in a London suburb, Hilary Wainwright, a poet and wartime soldier, receives an unexpected visit from a Frenchman, Pierre Verdier, who has some surprising news for him. Pierre reveals to Hilary that Hilary's young son, John, who Hilary has not seen since his birth in Paris, disappeared after Hilary's wife was murdered by the Gestapo in 1942. Pierre, whose fiancee, Jeanne, was a close friend of Hilary's wife, is returning to France and knowing that Hilary will be unable to leave his unit, he offers to try to find John for Hilary. The story then moves to the end of the war when Hilary arrives in war-torn Paris, where he meets up with Pierre again and learns that his son could be living in an orphanage in a town in Northern France. Although Pierre feels that the little boy in the orphanage could very well be Hilary's son, John, he has been unable to provide any firm proof and Hilary is reluctant to raise his hopes that he has finally found his own child. " I don't want to feel anything any more" he tells Pierre, "I couldn't endure being hurt again; I'd sooner feel nothing." However, Hilary makes the journey and in the midst of the ruins of a shattered French town, is forced to ask himself difficult questions. How will he be able to tell whether the little boy is really his? What is it that makes a child truly belong to you? If he can't be sure that the boy is John and rejects him, what if he makes a mistake and abandons his own child? And if Hilary believes the boy to be John, will he be able to love and take care of a sensitive and emotionally damaged child?

This is yet another very attractively presented novel by the wonderful Persephone Books, a publishing firm which reprints forgotten and very readable twentieth century classics, and I found this an absorbing and rewarding read. At first Hilary does not appear to be an entirely sympathetic character and his rather dismissive attitude towards Pierre, after the Frenchman has done so much to help find Hilary's son, is not very admirable. However, the more we learn about Hilary and his life, we begin to see how vulnerable and scarred he has become from his experiences of love and war, and I found myself totally gripped by his story and willing him not to make a mistake he could regret for the rest of his life. The combination of Hilary's predicament and the author's marvellous depiction of post-war France, made this an atmospheric, involving and very emotive read, which I read in one sitting and which I can highly recommend. (And yes, I cried at the end).

5 Stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very emotional read, 8 Mar 2011
By 
Helen S - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Little Boy Lost (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
Little Boy Lost is the second book I've read by Marghanita Laski - the first was The Victorian Chaise-Longue. However, I found the two books entirely different. This one was far more emotional and a more gripping, compelling read.

It's Christmas Day, 1943, when Hilary Wainwright first learns that his son has been lost. He had seen baby John only once - a brief glimpse of a little red face with dark hair poking out of a bundle of blankets. Then, while Hilary was away, his wife, Lisa, was killed by the Gestapo in Paris and their little boy disappeared almost without trace. When the war is over, Hilary goes back to France and with the help of his friend, Pierre, he begins to follow a trail which he hopes will lead him to his lost son.

Laski does an excellent job of portraying the conflicting emotions Hilary experiences, torn between longing to be reunited with his son and worrying that if he does find him he might not want him. All through the book I was guessing what might happen - it wasn't really obvious what the outcome would be and I could think of several different possibilities, some good and some bad.

The descriptions of post-war France are so vivid: the bomb-damaged buildings, the poverty, the food shortages - unless you were rich enough to take advantage of the black market, of course. And I was shocked by the descriptions of the conditions in the orphanages. As well as there not being enough to eat and drink, and a complete lack of any toys or games, it was chilling to think of children with tuberculosis living alongside the healthy ones.

Although I was trying to avoid hearing too much about this book before I read it, I knew it was supposed to become very nerve-wracking and suspenseful towards the end. Well, I can tell you that this is definitely true! There are so many great books that are let down by a weak ending, but this is certainly not one of them. The tension throughout the final few chapters was nearly unbearable, so much so that I was almost afraid to reach the end. And I imagine most readers, like I did, will have tears in their eyes when they reach the very last sentence.

Nicholas Lezard of The Guardian, who is quoted on the back cover, says it best: "If you like a novel that expertly puts you through the wringer, this is the one."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic That Shouldnt Be Lost, 24 Nov 2009
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Little Boy Lost (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
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. A clever and emotionally touching classic that doesnt deserve to be forgotten.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of its time, 16 April 2009
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This review is from: Little Boy Lost (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
This is a great read - a real window on turbuletn post-war Europe and the physical and emotional scars left by the war. The story is plausible and well observed. The only minor criticism is that the end is a little contrived. Overall highly recommended as are all the books from this great publishing house.
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Little Boy Lost (Persephone Classics)
Little Boy Lost (Persephone Classics) by Marghanita Laski (Paperback - 23 Oct 2008)
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