The Lost Child

The Lost Child

Book - 2015
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Caryl Phillips's The Lost Child is a sweeping story of orphans and outcasts, haunted by the past and fighting to liberate themselves from it. At its center is Monica Johnson--cut off from her parents after falling in love with a foreigner--and her bitter struggle to raise her sons in the shadow of the wild moors of the north of England. Phillips intertwines her modern narrative with the childhood of one of literature's most enigmatic lost boys, as he deftly conjures young Heathcliff, the anti-hero of Wuthering Heights , and his ragged existence before Mr. Earnshaw brought him home to his family.

The Lost Child is a multifaceted, deeply original response to Emily Bronte's masterpiece, Wuthering Heights . A critically acclaimed and sublimely talented storyteller, Caryl Phillips is "in a league with Toni Morrison and V. S. Naipaul" ( Booklist ) and "his novels have a way of growing on you, staying with you long after you've closed the book." ( The New York Times Book Review ) A true literary feat, The Lost Child recovers the mysteries of the past to illuminate the predicaments of the present, getting at the heart of alienation, exile, and family by transforming a classic into a profound story that is singularly its own.

Publisher: New York :, Farrar, Straus and Giroux,, 2015
Edition: Fist edition
ISBN: 9780374191375
Branch Call Number: FIC Phil
Characteristics: 260 p
Additional Contributors: Brontë, Emily 1818-1848


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Nov 07, 2017

I have learned to be wary when reviews for a novel are too good to be true. One reads "A re-imagining of Wuthering Heights [that] traces the multi-generational forces that shape the lives of a young Heathcliff, the Brontë sisters and their brother," or "Written in the tradition of Jean Rhys' "Wide Sargasso Sea"... "The Lost Child" is a multifaceted, deeply original response to Emily Bronte's masterpiece." One, of course, is bound to be very surprised and disappointed when one realizes that the book is actually rather far from being about Heathcliff.
There are only a couple of chapters about what Phillips imagines was Heathcliff's life before Mr. Earnshaw brings him to his house on the moors. A sad story of abuse and death to explain the sudden appearance of this wild boy.
The rest of the novel - actually, the vast majority of it - is about Monica, her two sons, and her father. To be honest, I could not like Monica throughout the book. Although Phillips tried to convince me that she was doing her best for her two kids, my impression is that is selfish, arrogant, ungrateful and, yes, stupid. She marries another selfish man who vents his frustrations through bullying her and, when she finally leaves him, she doesn't even sue him for alimony! She struggles with chronic lack of money but allows the father of her sons to get away with everything. Then she starts a path of self-degradation, depression, illness, and the kids pay the consequence. They are put in foster care and even worse things happen, but I will not spoil the plot for you.
In the end one of her son goes to the University, but honestly I didn't get the impression that there was much hope for him. If he stays with his girlfriend, perhaps, but he seems to be just as selfish and full of himself as his mother.
I rated this book "good" because Caryl Phillips is a great writer and his mastery of the English language is admirable. But I really don't see much connection with "Wuthering Heights"; the initial and the final chapters seemed to be too stretched and really out of place to me. If you are interested in a story told without hypocrisy about a woman who gives up her education and her family in order to marry a bully, then this is the book for you.

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