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Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski
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Little Boy Lost (1949)

by Marghanita Laski

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Set just after WW2, this is the story of Hilary Wainwright, young, literary...but emotionally damaged from a chilly mother and his wartime experiences in France. With his wife killed by the Gestapo, and his infant son vanished, Hilary is a shell of a man...and then one Christmas, a stranger arrives from Paris with information.
The narrative follows the pair back to grim post-war France; the complicated journey by which the infant reached the orphanage. But is it even his child? No one can say for sure, so Hilary spends a succession of evenings getting to know the child and trying to decide.
Authors often create rather saccharin children, but young Jean is a real character to whom the reader instantly warms. And is soon rooting for our contained and doubting lead character to remove from the nuns' charge and take him home. But Hilary is becoming aware of the constraints of parenthood, and querying whether he even should take on a child who may not be his... There are two little boys lost in this narrative, as both father and son need rescuing from their plight.
Quite a white-knuckle read as the end approaches. This really grew on me, from an indifferent first few pages, and I adored Jean. ( )
  starbox | Sep 2, 2018 |
A beautifully written and interesting story, with a main character that it is easy to dislike. I enjoyed the book and even liked the serendipitous ending, though some feel it was too saccharine, it was in my mind the best way to end. ( )
  Cat-Lib | Jul 3, 2016 |
Set in the period post WWII, Little Boy Lost is the tale of a broken man and his conflicted search for his five year old child in France. I don't think I can easily say anything else about this book without giving away what makes it such a poignant and page-turning read.

Thoroughly enjoyable - an emotionally charged read.

3.5 stars - another Persephone classic that hits the spot. ( )
  AlisonY | Mar 20, 2016 |
Little Boy Lost is set during and just after WWII. Hilary Wainwright is an English writer who lost his wife during the Holocaust—and his son, John, is also lost but in a different way. Hilary receives a tip that his son may be living in an orphanage in France, and he goes there to investigate.

It’s a bleak novel—the theme of which is emotional expression. Hilary’s constant struggle is whether to repress emotion, or to let it out. There’s so much emotional fodder here—the death of his wife, the loss of his son—but he doesn’t allow himself to actually express what he’s feeling. This suppression of emotion is what makes this book so powerful, all the more so because this is a novel of self-discovery, too. It’s only when Hilary manages to “find” himself that he opens himself up. Then there are the larger questions that Hilary finds himself asking: is the boy in the orphanage his? And if so, should he take on the care of him? What does Hilary really want, anyways? A neat, albeit dirty, twist happens towards the end of the novel that throws a wrench in his plans—unexpectedly, but maybe for the better.

Apparently, the idea for the book comes from something that really happened—during the English Civil War, the young heir to a family that supported the Royalist cause was spirited away and taken to a French monastery to be educated. I always find the inspiration for a book fascinating; it’s interesting to see where a writer’s imagination can go. So I was fascinated by Marghanita Laski’s gritty, bleak modernization of the story. I’m not sure that I liked Hilary all that much or the young women he takes up with, but Laski’s depiction of a postwar France in which society has been shattered is chilling. It’s also a subtle acknowledgement of the corrupt choices that many people were forced to make during the war in order to survive. Very well done. ( )
1 vote Kasthu | Sep 9, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marghanita Laskiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hodgkinson, FrankIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sebba, AnneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sebba, AnneAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Father, father, where are you going?
Oh, do not walk so fast!
Speak, father, speak to your little boy,
Or else I shall be lost.


From 'The Little Boy Lost' by William Blake
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For Jonathan
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It was on Christmas Day, 1943, that Hilary Wainwright learnt that his little son was lost.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Hilary Wainright, poet and intellectual, returns after the war to blasted and impoverished France in order to trace a child lost five years before. The novel asks: is the child really his? And does he want him?

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