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Paperback What Was Lost Book

ISBN: 0805088334

ISBN13: 9780805088335

What Was Lost

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Book Overview

A tender and sharply observant debut novel about a missing young girl--winner of the Costa First Novel Award and long-listed for the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and The Guardian First Book Award

In the 1980s, Kate Meaney--"Top Secret" notebook and toy monkey in tow--is hard at work as a junior detective. Busy trailing "suspects" and carefully observing everything around her at the newly opened Green Oaks shopping mall,...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Waste Lands

This is the debut novel of a very talented writer. It is a working class mystery set in the industrial ruins of the English Midlands and in a shopping mall in Birmingham. The story is set in two time zones: 1984 and 19 years later. I would bet that Ms.O'Flynn didn't choose 1984 for nothing. England is one of the countries with the highest surveillance levels in the world, closed circuit television is everywhere. One of the main characters of the later events is a security guard who spends hours every day looking at CCTV screens in the mall. He sees something on a screen at night, which leads to events from the past, the vanishing without trace of a precocious 10 year old girl, a loner and `amateur detective' (due to a gift from her father, a guide `how to be a private investigator'). He teams up with a young woman who works in a music shop in the mall, whose brother had disappeared a little later than the little girl, when he was 22. This writer knows what she is writing about. Her descriptions of places and events are down to earth. Her working life scenes have a distinctly Dilbertian quality. She can be humorous without annoying me and she knows when to drop it. Her scenes from family life are full of cynical wisdom about the real world. (What is the point of life? Wasting time until you die.) How did I pick this up? In my shelves, I have different waiting hills of books. One consists of books that my daughter thinks I must read. She is not always right, but in this case I agree with her.

An astonishing first novel

There's something about precocious, bookish, lonely girls (I should know; I was one) that makes them excellent narrators: a rather literary vocabulary, a knack for not being noticed, a compulsion to write things down. Such qualities come in handy when 10-year-old Kate Meaney embarks on a career as a private detective and establishes Falcon Investigations (the only other employee is a stuffed monkey named Mickey). As WHAT WAS LOST begins, it's 1984, and we find Kate staking out Green Oaks, her local shopping center, in search of crimes and misdemeanors. It soon becomes clear that her pretend games are combined with real powers of observation. Kate's descriptions of neighborhood merchants are funny and poignant (a butcher nobody patronizes much anymore, possibly because he "stood in his shop window, swatting flies against the sides of meat with a large palette knife"), and she nails elementary school herd behavior. When a new girl, Teresa, transcends all previous definitions of naughtiness, the class is shocked and disoriented, "like a small tribal culture whose cosmology is suddenly torn apart by the arrival of a box of cornflakes...." Kate also notices that Teresa has bruises and burns on her arms and legs, and is much smarter than she lets on. This mix of Harriet the Spy-ish sardonic humor and dangerous reality runs through the entire novel; it soon develops that "what was lost," in Kate's case, was her father (her mother had already left), who drops dead one day, leaving her to the unsentimental care of her maternal grandmother, Ivy. Using a book called HOW TO BE A DETECTIVE, a gift from her father, Kate sets herself up as a professional watcher, keeping unbearable grief at bay with strict timetables (she allows herself only 10 minutes a day to play with her swivel chair) and systematic record-keeping (her father was a retired statistician). She also has a friend, Adrian, a kind, unambitious man in his 20s whose father runs the local newsagent/candy store and who treats Kate like an adult. She's surviving pretty well, considering, when Ivy decides she's too old to care for a child and resolves --- threatens is a better word --- to send Kate to Redspoon, a local boarding school with scholarships for bright kids. Fast forward 19 years. We're no longer in Kate's head, but we're in one of her favorite hangouts, the Green Oaks mall. While watching his screens on the night shift, a young security guard, Kurt, twice glimpses a little girl clutching a toy monkey (no one else sees her). Meanwhile, Lisa, Adrian's younger sister, who also works at the mall --- as a beleaguered manager in a music superstore --- finds a toy monkey stuck behind some pipes. It turns out that Kate Meaney disappeared two decades ago, apparently vanishing into thin air after a trip to Redspoon to take the entrance exam. Adrian, treated by the police as a prime suspect in the case, absconds shortly thereafter. Are these sightings supernatural? Is the monkey a clue? Catherine

Could not put it down.....

Oh wow - what an amazing little gem this book was! This was O'Flynn's debut novel. She's got a fan here that will be looking for her second. The novel opens in 1984 and we meet nine year old Kate Meaney. She is a bit of a loner, preferring adults to children her own age. One of her favourite adults is Adrian, the son of a local shopkeeper. Kate is determined to be a detective. This is the driving force of her days. She carries a notebook and makes observations of all the people and situations she comes across. She has staked out both her neighbourhood and the new mall, Green Oaks. She decides to concentrate her time on Green Oaks. She shares her sleuthing dutiher little stuffed monkey. Until....she disappears. O`Flynn's portrayal of this little girl is amazing. Her determination, earnestness, and curious mind are all vividly painted with words. I was somewhat reminded of Christopher - the main character in the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. (Another really good read!) Fast forward to 2003 at the Green Oaks Mall. It has expanded and is very large now. Kurt works as a security guard on the night shift. One night he inexplicably see a young girl with a stuffed monkey on the security camera. When he searches, she is gone. Lisa, Adrian's sister works at a music store in the mall. Working late one night, she gets lost in the staff only corridors and finds a stuffed monkey lodged down by a pipe. Lisa and Kurt are both lonely and feel their lives are empty. They meet and their lives become connected by a long missing little girl. The development of the characters of Lisa and Kurt is excellent. As with Kate, you immediately feel a real sense of their lives. Having worked in retail hell for many years, I found O'Flynn's descriptions of the mall, it's workers and customers to be spot on, very funny at times, but also very sad. This book is as much about the mystery of what happened to Kate as it is about Karl and Lisa reclaiming their lives. O'Flynn was listed for many prizes for this debut novel - and rightly so!

superb thriller

In 1984 in the Birmingham, England area, ten years old orphan Kate Meaney, accompanied by her sidekick a stitched stuffed monkey pretends to be a private investigator. The preadolescent especially keeps an eye out for criminal activity in Green Oaks shopping center near her home. When she is not sleuthing, Kate spends time at the sweetshop next door to her home discussing music with twenty-two tears old Adrian, the son of the owner. Her grandmother who raises Kate directs her to take an exam to gain entrance to a boarding school. Adrian takes her there, but no one sees Kate again. The police suspect Adrian of murder as they cannot comprehend a friendship between the tweener and the adult, but have no evidence to prove their case. However, the neighborhood condemns Adrian forcing him to move away. Two decades later on a CCTV monitor Green Oaks night shift security guard Kurt Jump notices a girl wandering seemingly lost holding a stuffed monkey. He rushes over to where he saw her, but no one is there. Not long after that Kurt mentions the girl with the monkey to Your Music store manager Lisa, Adrian's sister. They begin a search for the girl as Lisa hopes to solve the disappearance of Kate that destroyed her family especially her forced exiled brother. WHAT WAS LOST is a superb thriller that uses a mall, especially what happens outside the shops, as a terrific backdrop to a fascinating mystery. In many ways Green Oaks is a major character as the audience learns its economic impact on a blue collar neighborhood in which factory workers are forced to accept shop jobs at extremely diminished income; a subtle slap at the gurus who insist the economy is strong as everyone is working. The atmosphere of the non-shops is a part of the mall that is dark and gloomy at least through the surveillance cameras. With the mall playing a key role and Lisa and Kurt jumping into the cold case seeking the truth, the bottom line is fans will need to know the answer to the title question. Harriet Klausner

Much more than a suburban thriller - a breath of fresh air !

Reading Catherine O'Flynn's debut novel "What Was Lost (WWL)" was a like a breath of fresh air coming after all those much lauded but grossly disappointing titles like last year's Booker prize winner. O'Flynn may be new to the game but she understands the essentials of good writing and what it takes to captivate and hold the reader's attention. To me, WWL isn't so much a social commentary on the absurdity of consumerism as some have suggested, as it is about the sense of alienation and crushing loneliness afflicting individuals living in our modern age. From little Kate Meaney who lives in her make-believe world of detectives and potential victims, where she sleuths away all day with the help of her pet monkey Mickey, hence unwittingly becoming the subject of the mystery at the heart of the novel, to record store deputy manager Lisa who is stuck in an unsatisfactory relationship with that useless colleague-boyfriend of hers, to the lonely night shift security guard Kurt who nurses a secret and passes his hours gazing into that surveillance monitor of his at Green Oaks shopping mall, etc, etc. Little Kate's mysterious disappearance all those years ago, her pet monkey Mickey's strange but timely re-emergence in the mall corridor one day, the secrets of the protagonist cast and related characters as they are gradually revealed, and the presence of ghostly ruminations by several anonymous persons after hours at the mall, all add convincingly to the spook factor that turns this quite wonderful and difficult to categorise book into a serious page turner as one works through its final pages. But what kind of mystery novel is it that brings heartache and tears - the kind one least expects to experience and spill - in a heart thumping, heart wrenching denouement that unites and reveals the central characters in all their humanity. Little Kate's act of kindness that gave her poor underprivileged friend,Teresa a future must count as one of those pricelessly poignant moments that brought a lump in my throat. "What Was Lost" is altogether more than an ordinary suburban thriller. What O'Flynn has created is a niche offering in a hybrid genre that both unreservedly entertains yet leaves the reader with the feeling that what he has read easily passes for serious literature. It won the Costa First Novel Award and in my opinion beats most of last year's Booker nominees hands down. I loved every moment of it !

What Was Lost Mentions in Our Blog

What Was Lost in Four Authors to Appreciate More (And Tell Your Friends About)
Four Authors to Appreciate More (And Tell Your Friends About)
Published by Beth Clark • May 09, 2018
Being talented or even a bestseller doesn't guarantee authors the respect and appreciation they deserve, but these four are worthy of your time and book dollars.
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