“We have thought for years in terms of movements and groups,” she said, “never of individuals. We have accepted the judgment of groups and we have subordinated our morality to them.” And she said, “I know now that that was wrong. The only good thing we can do, the only goodness we can be sure of, is our own goodness as individuals and the good that we can do individually. As groups we often do evil that good may come and very often the good does not come and all that is left is the evil we have pointlessly done.”
I was so afraid as I neared the end of Little Boy Lost that when I finally came to the conclusion, I wept.
“What?!” asked my husband. “What?” He was quite alarmed, and I was surprised myself, that a book should make me cry.
There are so many ways of being lost, especially when it comes to children. The eight year old students in my class often write with vivid description the times that they were separated from their parents, in a Target store, perhaps, or the local market.
But, Hilary has truly lost his son. When his wife, Lisa, gave their baby boy to her friend, Jeanne, before the Gestapo came for her, Jeanne in turn gave the baby to a curé for its safety. No one knew for sure where the baby was when Hilary accepts the help of Philip to find him.
The search takes Hilary to a desolate town in France, to the local convent, where a little, ragged boy, with red hands, huge eyes, and clothes which do not fit, lives. Hilary is not sure throughout the novel if the boy is indeed his, and perhaps it doesn’t matter if they are related by blood or not. For, in his own way, each is a lost boy.
“No monsieur, I am sure that either this is your son, or that your son is beyond human reach. ‘And since I am assured that he would be brought up in the faith, I should be very content if you wished to recognise this child as yours.”
“Why?” asked Hilary sharply, “Why are you so anxious that I should take him?”
She looked at him steadily for a moment and then said, “There are many reasons. One is that I am deeply sorry for you. You seem to me lost and in need of comfort. I would not wish to withhold that comfort from you.”
In this incredibly moving novel, Laski explores not only the relationship between father and son, but also that between tenderness and selfishness. She shows us the power we have as individuals for doing good, and in so doing, to redeem not only others but ourselves. I loved it with all my heart.
I have now read all three of Marghanita Laski’s novels: To Bed With Grand Music, The Victorian Chaise-Longue, and Little Boy Lost. The later is by far my favorite, for not only its story, but its message; something I’m always searching for in what I read. The Victorian Chaise-Longue was a wonderful, mind-bending book, which still terrifies me when I recall it. What a pleasure it has been to read these three very different novels by the same author; a special thanks to Persephone books for making them available, and to Claire and Verity for hosting this reading weekend.