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What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

What Was Lost (2007)

by Catherine O'Flynn

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I wasn’t immediately captivated by this tale but I am very glad I persevered. Not only is it a mystery to be solved but it is a social commentary and observation of the impact on shopping malls on communities. This proved a very satisfying read. ( )
  HelenBaker | Jan 1, 2017 |
This may be more like 3.75 stars; the point is, I liked it a lot.

It's a Book Club book, and precisely why I'm glad to be in Book Club: I may have never picked this up on my own. But it's a very tender, poetic, unhurried tale of the meaning of a single life, a life that seemed invisible to most.

The story revolves around Kate, a 10 year old junior detective. It is impossible not to like her. She is keen, directed, & driven. O'Flynn shows you how razor-thin the line between adult and child is at this age: Kate's sidekick is Mickey the Monkey, her stuffed toy she has suited up like Sam Spade. She drags him along on her surveillance adventures, she shares all her notes with him... but she knows getting him a walkie-talkie is ridiculous, no matter how badly she wants a set.

Kate vanishes one day. When you know her family history, and the extent of her surveillance, you can see it was only a matter of time. Her absence in the remainder of the story is a dull ache. Where she is excited about each day, taking charge of her future, the characters who pick up the story are numbed by the monotony of the lives they've fallen into. They're as lost as she is. It's just that no one knows it. And no one would suspect how they are bound to each other. Even Kate at her most observant would probably have missed the way this unfolds.

This is O'Flynn's first novel, and I'm curious to see if she's published more since this. Her writing style is lively and graceful, allowing things to unfold without rushing or over-explaining them. There are a couple of missed steps (or perhaps I missed their significance), but they can easily be forgiven - they're short distractions, not the undoing of the work as a whole.

Pick this up if you get a chance. ( )
  LauraCerone | May 26, 2016 |
What a poignant story.

It starts in 1984 with a young girl, Kate, who has been orphaned and lives with her Grandmother. One of the last things her father had given her was book on being a Detective and she spends her time on 'stakeouts' observing and making notes. Her favourite place for this is a local shopping centre, Green Oaks, where she watches the entrance to a bank, convinced that someone will try to rob it and she'll be a hero for her painstaking surveillance & efforts to foil it. The 'voice' of the girl is beautifully observed and written, all the earnestness and innocence of a 10 year old and how she sees the world.

Then we leap forward to 2003 and it's obvious that something has happened to Kate: she's no longer the voice of the story. Instead, we follow events through the eyes of Lisa, a Duty Manager in a record store, and Kurt a Security Guard. Both work in the shopping centre that Kate used to 'patrol' and both have links back to her and her disappearance. Again, it's well observed and written, and the details of life working in a record store of that era are really quite funny. (Oh yes, and watch out for the 'mystery shopper' - so funny!)

The story develops, expanding on the lives of Kurt and Lisa and their families and all their links back to the Shopping Centre and Kate until we finally, piece by piece, find out what happened.

A sad little tale written in a heartwarming way. So pleased that Pauline/Verns sent this on to me, will definitely have to read more of Catherine O'Flynn's work in the future. ( )
  Cassandra2020 | Jan 24, 2016 |
This book never really grabbed my attention (maybe because I was trying to read it over Christmas) so I struggled to finish it. I found it to be quite bleak and depressing and the characters unremarkable. Ho hum! ( )
  HeatherLINC | Jan 22, 2016 |
Hard to classify this book - part mystery/detective story, part modern romance, part judgement on modern consumerist society.Excellent depiction of the frustration of working in retail, it gave me shudders of recognition! Contrasting of characters with innocent child-detective Kate and the oppressed retail worker Lisa. Enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. ( )
  aine.fin | Oct 23, 2015 |
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Written for Peter and dedicated to the memory of Donal of Hillstreet and Ellen of Oylegate.
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Crime was out there.
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Book description
Precocious 10 year old sleuth goes missing. Intertwined characters take up an investigation of what happens 20 years later.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805088334, Paperback)

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, she forms an unlikely friendship with Adrian, the son of a local shopkeeper. But when this curious, independent-spirited young girl disappears, Adrian falls under suspicion and is hounded out of his home by the press.

Then, in 2003, Adrian’s sister Lisa—stuck in a dead-end relationship—is working as a manager at Your Music, a discount record store. Every day she tears her hair out at the outrageous behavior of her customers and colleagues. But along with a security guard, Kurt, she becomes entranced by the little girl glimpsed on the mall’s surveillance cameras. As their after-hours friendship intensifies, Lisa and Kurt investigate how these sightings might be connected to the unsettling history of Green Oaks itself. Written with warmth and wit, What Was Lost is a haunting debut from an incredible new talent.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:53 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Twenty years after her brother is hounded from his home by rumors about his alleged role in a young girl's disappearance, Lisa and her security guard friend become increasingly curious about a child they glimpse on a mall's surveillance cameras.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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