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The Lost Child

The Lost Child 2

by Suzanne McCourt
Publication Date: 26/02/2014
5/5 Rating 2 Reviews
RRP  $29.99 $27.95
Longlisted for the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award
From the headland, we look across to the lighthouse on Seal Island where Mr Hammett has to take the gas bottle to keep the light flashing at night. Aunt Cele says there is no land between us and the bottom of the world where everything is white ice and there are penguins as big as men, but I know this already because Dunc has told me.

Sylvie is five. It's the 1950s and she lives in Burley Point, a fishing village south of the Coorong on Australia's wild southern coast. She worships her older brother Dunc. She tries to make sense of her brooding mother, and her moody father who abandons the family to visit The Trollop, Layle Lewis, who lives across the lagoon.

It's hard to keep secrets in a small town, but when Dunc goes missing, Sylvie is terrified that she is the cause. Now her father is angry all the time; her mother won't leave the house or stop cleaning. The bush and the birds and the endless beach are Sylvie's only salvation, apart from her teacher, Miss Taylor.

In the tradition of the novels of Anne Tyler and Eudora Welty, The Lost Child is a beautifully written story about family and identity and growing up. Sylvie is a charming narrator with a big heart and a sharp eye for the comic moment. As the years go by she learns how tiny events can changes entire lives, and how leaving might be the only solution when the the world will never be the same again.
Contemporary fiction
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  • The Lost Child

    by on

    The Lost Child by Suzanne McCourt (Text)
    Both the cover of this book, with its representation of the sea and the subterranean world beneath, and the title, The Lost Child, speak of the themes of this elegant debut novel by Suzanne McCourt. There is more than one Lost Child in the novel, but it is through the adolescent Sylvie that the story unfolds. McCourt has skilfully managed to present the life of a broken family in a small fishing village where the social mores of the fifties meant divorce was frowned upon, through the eyes of Sylvie, leaving it to the reader to interpret the events that lay beneath the surface.

    Poignant, at times humorous, and capturing the period beautifully, it is through the resilience of Sylvie that hope is offered. The Lost Child is a book which leaves you wanting to see more work from this promising novelist.
    Pauline Luke


  • An outstanding debut novel and a very moving read

    by on

    The Lost Child is the first novel by Australian author, Suzanne McCourt. When Sylvie Meehan is almost five, she is living in the small fishing village of Burley Point on the southern coast of Australia, with her Mum, Nella, her Dad Mick and her older brother Dunc. Soon, shell be going to school, but just now she wishes her Dad loved her as much as he loves Dunc, and that her Mum and Dad could get on a bit better. She knows that her Dad doesnt talk to Uncle Ticker, that he wont go out to see Grandma Meehan on the property, Bindilla, but shes not sure exactly why. She knows Aunt Cele loves Burley Point, but people are critical of the way she lives. Burley Point is a small town and she knows lots of the people there: nothing stays a secret for long. As Sylvie grows up, there are many changes she doesnt like: Dad goes to live across the lagoon with the Trollop, Layle Lewis; Dunc is sent away to boarding school in the city; Mum takes a job at the caf to make ends meet; Sylvie gets good marks at school but she hates when her classmates gossip and call her names, although her teacher, Miss Taylor, is always nice to her. But the worst thing is when Dunc goes missing, because Sylvies sure she is to blame. In her narration, Sylvie guilelessly relates events, incidents, her own thoughts and conversations and exchanges overheard, occasionally misinterpreting from her youthful perspective, thus slowly building for the reader a picture of the people around her and her life in this small town. Some ten years after the start of her narration, when much in her life has changed, Sylvie ponders :Whats so good about the truth if its more awful than a lie? McCourt establishes the era with references to Royal visits, movies, songs, comics and crazes, giving the novel a truly authentic feel. Readers may feel some nostalgia for dinking, riding in the back of the ute, the circus coming to town, buttered Saos, hula hoops, bride dolls, wagging school, 4711 and Phantom comics, although probably not for school sores, the effects of Thalidomide and the practice of routine tonsillectomy. The attitude to divorce and New Australians, six oclock closing and evangelist rallies are also hallmarks of a bygone era. The reader is treated to some beautiful prose: Blue has gone. His chain lies under the pines like a silver snake. On the lawn, the sprinkler hisses around like a buzzy wasp. and A flock of silvereyes fly out of the pines. They drop over the lagoon like a lacy cloth. An outstanding debut novel and a very moving read.