All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley

on June 17, 2015

Book of Lost and FoundThe Book of Lost and Found
Lucy Foley
Harper Collins Australia
2015, 458p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Kate Darling is still mourning the sudden loss of her mother, a famous ballerina when her surrogate grandmother figure passes away as well. Finding a portrait of a woman who could only be her biological grandmother as well as letters this woman wrote to her mother, Kate decides to find out exactly what happened and why her mother was given up for adoption. It led her to the life of ballet and she never tried to find her real mother but given these imploring letters, Kate cannot help but be curious. Especially as the portrait could only be the early work of a very famous artist, Thomas Stafford. She begins to look for a way to make contact with the notoriously reclusive artist, who would probably be well into his eighties by now.

In the 1920’s, Tom is studying to follow in the footsteps of his father, something he is utterly unenthusiastic about. When he collides with Alice, a former childhood holiday friend at a party, Tom finds a new purpose. In carefree, reckless Alice he finds the confidence to pursue his true love, art. They spend long lazy days together exploring, falling in love and trying to find a way to break Tom away from his bleak future and into a much more exciting one. But then Alice disappears and Tom is left frantic to find her and know why. He’s sure that no matter what, they can make it right.

I absolutely love a good historical/contemporary blend where a story focuses on different characters in different times that are somehow connected, so this sort of story was right up my alley based on the description alone. The modern part of the story is set in the mid-80s and focuses on Kate, a university graduate and budding photographer who works in a camera and photo shop (the age where everyone had to take their camera films to be processed!). She’s still reeling from the death of her mother, which was sudden and quite horrific when her adopted grandmother also dies, having suffered from dementia. She has one final moment of lucidity where she tells Kate about a box of letters and when Kate finds a portrait inside, she knows that this woman depicted can only be her grandmother. The resemblance to her mother is incredible.

For a reclusive artist, it’s rather easy to for Kate to end up getting in touch with Thomas Stafford and she includes a photo of her portrait so that he knows that she’s genuine. In return, Thomas invites her to his remote home in Corsica, Italy so that he can tell her what he knows about the woman in the portrait. Kate accepts and journeys out to Italy where she sits for Thomas and listens as the talks of his youth and the woman called Alice, who is depicted in the portrait.

The narrative jumps back and forth between Kate in the present day and Thomas and Alice at various stages in the past. I’ll be honest, I did find it a bit weird that Kate headed out to another country (a very remote part of it) to stay with someone she didn’t know. Okay he’s a famous artist but still. It may be a product of the time, I suppose, a hangover from the decade previous. But I would certainly have thought twice about going somewhere I’d be almost uncontactable and somewhere it’d be very difficult to get away from, should she need to. She doesn’t need to, because Thomas is a lovely old man but it was just one of those things that stuck in my head.

I was prepared for a star-crossed lovers story but I wasn’t prepared for the utter stupidity of some of Alice’s actions. Okay actually, most of Alice’s actions. Beginning from when she leaves Thomas. She claims that she has his best interests at heart but…in doing that, you also hurt the person you love? A hurt that actually stayed with him for the next sixty-odd years. But Alice’s stupid decision making didn’t actually stop there. She was a victim too, definitely and that may have contributed to the decisions she made over the next few years but I feel as though a lot of it was just an attempt to make Alice look quirky but….yet so brave. And I actually found her sections of the story quite difficult to read, because I didn’t really like her or understand her that much and felt like she was being pushed a little too hard, particularly because a lot of her is told through Thomas’s rather adoring eyes.

This book is so slow. It takes forever for anything to happen and then the story meanders around through the decades, back and forth but really taking forever to get anywhere. The story was told in such a long, round-a-bout way that it was hard for me to maintain my interest, to be honest. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t feel as though Alice was that palatable a character and each time she did something else that I found questionable as in ‘why did you do that Alice, for goddsake?” there seemed a lack of real, genuine reasoning other than just Alice’s whim or a connection to Paris that was only ever really vaguely touched upon.

In some ways this is a recurring thing throughout the novel. When Kate arrives in Corsica, she’s greeted with borderline hostility by Thomas’s grandson, who continues to regard her with suspicion until he learns her story. There’s supposed to be a sort of connection between them, despite this early false first impression but the chemistry is poorly developed and where it could’ve been really quite interesting, especially with both their backgrounds, it kind of staggers along in fits and starts and then peters out only to be passingly referenced in the epilogue. There’s not enough there, not enough time devoted to developing the attraction, teasing out the chemistry and having them confide their stories in each other. It feels both rushed and also stagnated, which is quite odd. I enjoyed both of their characters, both together and separate however I really do feel as though there could’ve been much more done with their story.

For me this story had a good premise but the execution didn’t really live up to it. I’m not sure the backwards and forwards narration worked as smoothly as it could have and it seemed to take far too long to get to the guts of the story. Most things I could piece out myself well before they were revealed, which meant that when the story did finally reveal them, I had already moved on past that moment and was onto something else. It was an okay read, not one I could really fall in love with. I just wasn’t invested into the characters and their stories enough to do that.


Book #106 of 2015

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