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Title: The Lost Child
Author: Emily Gunnis
Published: 16th April 2020 – Headline Review
Format: Paperback – 341 pages
Hello Hello! How are you all feeling now that April has rolled around? I don’t know what you all think, but this year seems to be absolutely flying by!
I’m so happy to be bringing you another #RandomThingsTours hosted by Anne Cater. I absolutely love working with Anne, she is such a lovely person and offers some incredible books in her blog tours, if you haven’t already, I would recommend you looking at her Twitter and getting some info on her tours!
Today’s book was, yet again, absolutely amazing, so thank you to Anne and Emily for offering me the chance to take part in this tour and thank you for sending me a copy of the book. I shall cherish it and push it into the hands of every single person I know and urge them to read it! Keep on reading for my thoughts on The Lost Child by Emily Gunnis.
From the author of the runaway bestseller, The Girl in the Letter comes a heartwrenching, twisting novel of betrayal, tragedy and a shocking family secret buried for decades.
1960. Thirteen-year-old Rebecca lives in fear of her father’s temper. As a storm batters Seaview Cottage one night, she hears a visitor at the door and a violent argument ensues. By the time the police arrive, Rebecca’s parents are dead and the visitor has fled. No one believes Rebecca heard a stranger downstairs…
2014. Iris, a journalist, is sent to cover the story of a new mother on the run with her desperately ill baby. But fatefully the trail leads to the childhood home of Iris’s own mother, Rebecca…Seaview Cottage.
As Iris races to unravel what happened the night Rebecca’s parents were killed, it’s time for Seaview Cottage to give up its secrets.
The Lost Child is a historical fiction, mystery/thriller standalone novel, written by Emily Gunnis in which we follow, in essence, the story of four women, part of the same dark secret, as they struggle through their lives, both in the past and in the present. The story starts out in 1960 with Rebecca Waterhouse, a girl of 13 who discovers that her parents are dead (or have they been killed) and she is submitted to hours of questioning at the police station. As the story goes along, we meet Iris and Jessie, two other very important women in this novel.
The book goes back and forth multiple times, going to the past and moving forward chronologically, following Rebecca and her mother Harriet, their suffering at the hands of Rebecca’s father, who has come back from WWII and is suffering from battle neurosis. On top of the double narratives, the one in the past and the one in the present, we have a collection of diary entries from Rebecca’s mother, slowly helping the reader piece together parts of her life and what inevitably led to her and her husband’s death that fateful November night in 1960.
This book is set in England, most notably at Seaview Cottage and West Wittering Bay in Chichester, Northcote Manor and Greenways, a psychiatric hospital in West Sussex. Although there is talk about the characters working in London, we don’t see much of the capital in this book, and for once, I really appreciated having a plot concentrating on a more rural setting.
I really enjoyed reading about the setting and even though it wasn’t a very prominent part of the book, we did get to see quite a lot of the place in which the story took place and I was able to get a feel for the place. The description of the psychiatric hospital was eery and it was so new for me to read about this in a book.
I don’t think you can really say that there is a main character in this book because the plot, the secrets, the revelations, and the developments were all intricately linked to each character, bringing them together or keeping them apart. I want to talk about those that really stood out to me.
Rebecca: I suppose you could say that Rebecca is the person that we see the most of in this book and the plot affects her the most because of what we learn throughout the story. She is the young girl at the start of the novel who discovers her parents’ bodies in their house at Seaview Cottage in 1960, but she is also Jessie and Iris’s mother. She is a very prominent character in this book and I really did enjoy reading about her life and following her at so many different ages, from her birth in 1947 to her childhood, her teenage years, the things we learn about her early adulthood and motherhood and then in the present times as a 67-year-old lady. I really liked reading about her and I thought that she was very well developed, relatable and honestly quite admirable.
Harvey: He is Jessie’s father and Rebecca’s former husband. He is also the boy who helped her get over her parents’ death when they were teenagers. For quite a few chapters in this book, we follow Harvey’s “plot” and I have to say that at times I struggled with his character a bit. As we learn more and more about the past, there are some things that really made me not appreciate him very much, but on the whole, he is also a very relatable character, well-developed and his concern for Jessie really comes through during his chapters.
Jessie: She is the young mother who goes missing with her new-born baby. Throughout her whole pregnancy, she apparently suffered from anxiety, and she sought out her mother Rebecca because she knew that she had had a similar experience when giving birth to Jessie. After a very long and stressful childbirth, Jessie is clearly in shock and suffering from psychosis, but her state isn’t really taken into account and the morning after, she runs away from the hospital and disappears almost without a trace. I really enjoyed learning a lot more about Jessie from other peoples’ perspective as we don’t have her point of view at all, but as she is sort of the main character, I thought it was really interesting how the author managed to talk about her and let the reader discover her and follow her story without it being told from her point of view.
Iris: She is Jessie’s half-sister, Rebecca’s second daughter that she had with John, her second husband, and she is also the reporter who is trying to find out what happened to Jessie, while at the same time trying to get the inside story for her mother. I also really liked reading the chapters about Iris, we learn a lot about her and she is really instrumental in discovering a lot of what happened in the past and helping her mother and her sister come to grips with the past and try to move on. It made a nice change to be able to read about a journalist who was actually part of the story instead of searching for a story and I was totally hooked by everything that Iris discovered.
Cecilia: We meet Cecilia towards the middle of the book, but she is also a very important character. I don’t want to say too much, but the little we get about her was really enjoyable but also really saddening. It broke my heart to see what she went through and the struggles she faced, especially when you piece everything together. I really enjoyed having this other little strand in the story that actually turned out to be crucial to the ending and such a good ending that was!
WWII: We don’t see the war as it is going on, but we do see it’s consequences on the characters, specifically Harriet and Jacob, Rebecca’s parents. Jacob comes home from the war with battle neurosis, and in Harriet’s diary entries and chapters, it is clear to see that he is not at all the same person after his time in battle. I really liked how this theme was dealt with, it wasn’t at the forefront of the plot, but you could still see its importance and how it was interwoven with the rest of the story. I think it was a great way to talk about and reflect on the war and its consequences, without actually setting the story during this period. In books, we often don’t see the aftermath of such events, and it was a really nice change to see what comes afterward, instead of before or during.
Mental Health/ Childbirth/ Motherhood and Psychosis: I think that mental health was a very big part of this book and I also really liked how this was written about, talked about between the characters and handled by the author. From the start, you get a feeling that there has been a deep trauma within the family and that it has spread through the generations, and only when you have the revelation at the end of the actual secret that the whole plot hinges on, do you understand why there is such a strong presence of mental health, specifically postnatal psychosis and its implications on each woman in this story. Adding the parts where we actually saw how patients were dealt with in the past, but also how they are dealt with today when mental health is in question was really quite shocking but it was also such an interesting thing to read about. It’s so saddening to see what people went through in the past when they were said to be “insane”, the treatment that unstable mothers were subjected to but also what men coming back from the war had to face. I think this book was an exceptionally good one, especially for its mental health representation.
Family: This is the other very important part of the story and this theme follows the reader from start to finish. I don’t want to say too much, but I was captivated while reading this book and piecing together all the links and family ties. It was scary how this story seemed to been very large but in the end actually turned out to be very small and it shows you just how strong a family secret can be. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, it truly felt like a family saga and Emily Gunnis did such a great job of bringing forward all the elements to make the ending actually shock me into verbally saying out loud: “Oh my god, what just happened!?”
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
When I read Anne’s email about this book I was instantly drawn in, I’ve been wanting to read some more historical fiction/ mystery/thriller since reading Towards the Vanishing Point by Jan Turk Petrie last month, so I knew that this was going to be a strong contender. When I opened this book and started reading it, I was immediately sucked into this complex, emotional and intimate story of a family with a dark secret. I read this one in a single sitting because I couldn’t physically put it down, I was so interested in everything that was happening, be it the trips back to the past through Harriet’s chapters or diary entries, Rebecca or Harvey’s memories of the 1960s and the night that Rebecca’s parents died; or even the present plot, the journey to discovering the past and finding Jessie and her new-born daughter.
I gave this book 5 stars and I absolutely loved it. There are always going to be things in books that people can argue upon, but in this book, I can’t think of anything that could make me drop this rating down. It captivated me from start to finish, broke my heart, mended it, made me worry about all the characters and gave me a big surprise. I would highly recommend this book and I am so excited to read Emily Gunnis’s first book now, I would urge you all to look out for this author!
Thank you once again to Anne for letting me be part of this tour and for sending the book to me.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this review, see you soon, stay safe,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – EMILY GUNNIS
Emily Gunnis previously worked in TV drama and lives in Brighton with her young family. She is one of the four daughters of Sunday Times bestselling author Penny Vincenzi. This is her second novel.
Twitter Handle: @EmilyGunnis
If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK (affiliate link) – Amazon FR (affiliate link) – AbeBooks (affiliate link) – The Book Depository (affiliate link) – Audible FR (affiliate link) – Amazon US – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Audible UK – Kobo