Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski (Persephone Reading Weekend Book 1)

“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.

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28 thoughts on “Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski (Persephone Reading Weekend Book 1)”

  1. There's a fourth Laski novel published by Persephone! The Village, which seems to be the least reviewed and the only Laski that I have left to read also.I too loved the message of Little Boy Lost and has such an emotional -almost visceral- reaction on that closing page that I turned to wake my boyfriend up to tell him how much of an impact it had made.Now you have to read Still Missing by Beth Gutcheon, where you are emotionally invested from the opening page.

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  2. Bermudaonion, I can't even tell you how fine a read it is. I was emotionally invested, for sure!Claire, thank you for telling me both about the fourth Laski novel to be published, as well as Still Missing. Now I'll have to order another one for my collection, or I should say, two more! I was so ecstatic about the ending of Little Boy Lost I had to cry; I can see why you woke up your boyfriend. Hope these guys of ours understand!

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  3. I've never read her, and I can see why you would be so moved. My books are lighter in mood, but still moving in occasional places. The only thing better than the enjoyment of the books I'm reading is the list of books I will be reading after this weekend.

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  4. No doubt, Audrey! Isn't it great to read all these reviews and have a plethora of titles from which to choose? They all sound so wonderful! (Even the heavier ones!)

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  5. This one has sat on my shelf for a while for a reason that is reemphasized to me here – I am a bit afraid of the emotional wallop of it all. But as I do appreciate a good cry and envy you that cathartic finish a little, the time to read might come sooner than I planned. (And thanks as always for sharing a peek at your classroom kids. Always love that!)

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  6. Elizabeth, it is wonderful!Frances, first of all, it's a good cry. I don't ever want to spoil the read for anyone, so I'll stop there, but don't let the idea of an 'emotional wallop' distress you. I promise, you won't be sorry when you read Little Boy Lost. As to vignettes of my class, I should tell more. They are always so clever, those children of "mine".

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  7. I finished this one last night and shut it with a "wow!" My dh took one look at my face and said, "tell me about it!" So I did. The odd thing about it was that it started feeling familiar towards the end. When I saw in the afterward that it had been made into a movie in 1953 with Bing Crosby I knew why. I'm sure I saw the movie when I was young during some Bing film festival, but I don't remember vivid details. It really made me want to dig it up and re-watch it to see what they had done to the story. Thanks for the review – it's nice to know I wasn't the only one strongly impacted by it. 🙂

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  8. oh wow Bellezza…this was such a wonderful review and you have me dying to read it now…and I have it!! I may just have to have myself a persephone weekend 🙂

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  9. I cried at the end as well! All the Laski's are wonderful in very different ways (I loved The Village as well), but this one has to be my favourite. Thanks for a great review that brought the emotional impact of reading it for the first time right back to me!

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  10. I've just finished The Victorian Chaise-Longue and loved it so I'm very much interested in reading Laski's other books. You saying it made you cry makes me think this might be the one to go on to next.

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  11. Susan, it's interesting to me that our husbands both wanted to know what the book was about after seeing our faces upon completion. I was just so very relieved he did the right thing! I was terribly worried for awhile, that he would go off with Nelly, and leave our littlest boy lost. I didn't know about the film with Bing Crosby, but that's no surprise: my background knowledge of movies is downright awful!Chris, you have to read it. You have to! Especially given that we have similar jobs, well, compassion for the 'little' ones, anyway. It won't take you long, and then you could participate in Persephone Reading Weekend.Rambling fancy, Laski's novels are unique in their own way. The three which I've read differ vastly! I agree with you, this is my favorite as well. The emotional impact was not only impressive, but it will stick with me for a long, long time. Forever? Probably.

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  12. Charlie, The Victorian Chaise Longue is my second favorite by Laski. I read it last October, finding it the perfect autumnal read. It was terrifying to think that you could be trapped in someone else's body, and no one would believe a word you'd said. I think you would like Little Boy Lost very much, too.

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  13. Joan, I think she's a wondeful author to begin with! I read Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day for my first Persephone, and while I enjoyed it, I certainly don't understand the rave reviews I read of it every where. It was not nearly my favorite, by any means. Laski's novels, however, are so thought provoking. Each one in its own way.

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  14. Christina, thank you for visiting me. I'm off to read your blog, and I'm glad you liked this post.Diane, how wonderful that you purchased this one already! Wish I had 1,000 copies to give to all my friends because I love it so much. Let's talk when you finish?

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  15. As wonderful as this book sounds, I'm sort of glad I didn't start it this weekend. It was one of my choices. I was in a bit of a funk yesterday as we had some gray skies so I can only imagine that this book would have sent me over the edge! I did love the Victorian Chaise Longue when I read it years ago so I will pick this one up one of these days.

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  16. Illinois is nothing if not gray skies in February. But, don't let my review give you the impression this is a discouraging book. It's so wonderful, not depressing. (Although it could have been!)

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  17. I have heard so many good things about Laski plus she is also one of Sarah Waters' favourite novelists (she mentioned Laski when she spoke about The Little Stranger) so I really want to read her novels. I don't have this one but I've got To Bed With Grand Music. Have you read any of her other novels?

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  18. We have read the very same Laskis now! My favourite was To Bed with Grand Music. I know, surprising that it wasn't this one. Now we must need to read The Village, the last Laski on the Persephone list! 🙂

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  19. Chasingbawa, I read The Little Stranger this fall, and I never noticed the mention of Laski! I did not particularly like To Bed With Grand Music, holding a great scorn for the 'heroine' in it, but each of her novels are very compelling. They will cause you to think quite deeply after finishing the last page.Claire, let's read The Village the next time a Persephone reading event comes around…or should we create our own? I don't have The Village, but I'd love to add it to my collection. By the way, did you happen to find the schedule for the Villette read-along? Shall I email it to you?

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