Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Monday, 18 March 2013

Lost and Found - Tom Winter

‘It often appears as if some people spend their entire lives trapped, going round and round in circles but never arriving.’

Carol is deeply unhappy. She doesn’t love her husband Bob anymore and she struggles to understand her teenaged daughter at all. She feels her life is just passing by, that she has wasted it and that she has to do something about it. Matters are complicated when Bob discovers he is ill. Her friend Helen suggests writing it all down in a letter to at least express all she is feeling and get it out. Unsure about the idea at first, eventually she decides to do just that, and then sends the letter out into the world. She writes of the guilt, despair, frustration and sadness at her life and relationships.

Meanwhile, Albert works at the post sorting office. He is a widower and is very close to retirement. His only real company is his cat Gloria. He is assigned to spend his remaining days at work in the room where the undeliverable mail ends up. One day whilst he is sorting through this mass of post without a home, he finds an envelope with a smiley face drawn on it, and he can’t help himself, he opens it and starts reading, and so the lives of our two lonely protagonists are linked. Carol’s letters, which are incorporated into the novel, become a reason for Albert to go on; he is intrigued by the person who could have written these words.

I felt very sad for Albert’s loss of his wife and the way it has dominated his life from then onwards, rendering him lonely. Carol seems equally lonely, despite having family around her, she doesn’t connect strongly with any of them and longs to escape. Through her honesty in the letters she writes, her true feelings are revealed. The complicated feelings she has for her husband are well expressed in a great passage where she likens her emotions to being on a plane: ‘I know I’ve said I don’t love my husband and I’m leaving him…but that doesn’t mean I don’t love him in broader, more general terms. It’s sort of like…like being on a plane. …Let’s just say our marriage was a very, very long flight and now the plane has crashed. The fact that I regretted getting on the plane, hated most of the journey, and now find myself in a place I don’t want to be doesn’t seem to matter any more. The point is, we survived. It’s hard not to feel a bond with someone when you’ve been through an experience like that.’

This is a story of guilt, regret and longing, of love and great loss, and loneliness that will make you ponder, but injected with a wit that will make you smile too. The author has written a moving, realistic and bittersweet tale detailing the highs and lows that befall people and the sadness that can blight our lives, yet the sense that there is always a connection to be made with someone, somewhere. I liked the little illustrations heading up each chapter too, each being related to the story.

I enjoyed reading this debut, I found it honest and stark at times, and at other times poignant, and I also find it amusing and sweet in parts. I felt that there were many aspects of the story and the characters that people might identify with. 

Published by Corsair

Thanks to the publisher for kindly sending me a copy of this novel to read and review. 

You can follow the author on twitter @wintrybits


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