Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Place, time, and memory: Lucy Foley's The Book of Lost and Found

Spanning most of the 20th century, The Book of Lost and Found is the sort of sweeping multi-period saga I seek out, one that promises to carry me away on a journey of discovery along with the characters.

In 1986, Kate Darling is a 27-year-old photographer still mourning her mother, June, a celebrated ballerina; the two had been exceptionally close. After the subsequent death of June’s adoptive mother, Evie, Kate is shaken to learn that Evie had withheld information about June’s birth mother. An exquisite decades-old sketch of a beautiful dark-haired woman with a striking resemblance to June leads Kate to renowned artist Thomas Stafford, now an elderly widower living on Corsica.

Intervening sections reveal the tale of a long-ago love that transformed Tom’s life. He and Alice Eversley, born into different social classes, become friends as children, when their families vacation on Cornwall during the lazy summer of 1913. They meet again at an English house party in 1928. Although separated due to life circumstances, neither forgets the other.

“How could a mere few strokes of pen do that, exert such a pull of memory and emotion?” Foley’s elegiac tone suits her story about love, loss, and people’s connections to the past. Each locale is skillfully described, from the rocky Corsican coast, with its heady scent of herbs and salt, to the bohemian 1920s and, later, the terror of wartime France. While Alice is a brave, unselfish heroine, at times Kate feels immature in comparison. For example, I puzzled at her habit of wearing jeans and crumpled T-shirts for important meetings. The novel also jumped abruptly from one viewpoint to another in the later sections.

While imperfect, this debut novel has much to recommend it. Fans of Kimberley Freeman, Lucinda Riley, and Rachel Hore will want to look for it.

The Book of Lost and Found was published by Back Bay/Hachette in August ($14.99/C$17.99, pb, 432pp).  Previously, it was published by Harper UK.  I reviewed it for the Historical Novels Review's November issue.  Which cover do you like best?  The US design, at top left, is based on an actual photograph of the Corsican coastline, which amazed me.  What a view!


  1. This book sounds like a saga I'd like very much. Thanks for the review.

    1. Pleased you like the review. Hope you'll enjoy the read.