The Lost Ones by Anita Frank – An intense and vivid novel of mystery and threat.
A book which makes you hold your breath with suspense, tension and anticipation, “The Lost Ones” is a memorable novel. This is a book of historical fiction but with a contemporary understanding of people. A ghost story, a story of spiritual awareness, a woman struggling to recover from an enormous trauma. This is a mystery story set in a large house, indeed this is a novel about the breakup of a society that lived in huge mansions with a considerable staff. The layers of this story are so carefully constructed as to be totally absorbing, as each character is carefully drawn from the most minor servant to the main protagonists. This is an extremely atmospheric novel in every sense of the word, as the House in which most of the story takes place becomes another character, dark and hostile, threatening and full of menace as darkness descends. Some of the characters are also fearsome, a fact contributed to by the setting. The achievement of this book is its success in creating climatic events throughout the narrative with keeps the attention of the reader. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read this book and join in this day of reviews.
The main character, Stella, is a young woman who has evidently lost the love of her life, Gerald, in the battlefields of the First World War. In 1917 the war continues, but Stella has been sent back from her nursing as a VAD. As she walks around her family home she remembers an old tragedy, and she worries about a maid whose connection with the household is a matter of gratitude, despite her slight oddness. When Hector, Stella’s brother in law, asks Stella to visit Madeline as she is worried about her pregnancy, she tries to put aside her sadness to go to the country mansion where her sister is staying with Hector’s mother. Forced to take Annie Burrows with her, Stella is not anticipating the extent of Madeline’s distress which soon becomes evident. Despite the prevailing tension in the house and several incidents which disturb her, Stella is keen to find a rational explanation for the events which are upsetting the household. When a new and extremely sceptical investigator arrives, it would seem that supernatural forces become even more terrifying.
Without giving too much away, this book has several themes and narrative questions. The matter of unresolved grief at this stage of the twentieth century is universal, as nearly every family has been affected by this war. Family secrets have to be unearthed and dealt with as the story develops. Stella must decide what is important to her as she faces so many challenges. There is not an actual plan of the house provided, but the power of the description is so strong that I could visualise the rooms in a lot of detail. The element of threat throughout the book to Stella and others feels very real.This is a vividly written book that is memorable for its impact.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, with its brilliant pacing and intense situations. I recommend it to fans of gothic thrillers, those interested in the later part and aftermath of the First World War, and the tragedy of loss. A mature and compelling read, it is a remarkable debut which I greatly enjoyed.