2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A very emotional read,
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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."