Little Girl Lost by Katie Flynn

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Little Girl Lost by Katie Flynn

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: A clichéd plot but well written and very readable if you like this type of book. The outcomes of all the various plots are predictable, but that's quite common in this type of novel. If this is your sort of book then you'll find it enjoyable, but it's probably one to borrow rather than to buy.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 512 Date: November 2006
Publisher: Arrow
ISBN: 978-0099486992

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This novel is set in the early part of the 20th century, with the opening scenes in Liverpool. We meet Sylvie on the first page walking along the banks of the Mersey late at night, desperately worried about the fact that she's pregnant. She's married - however her husband Len has been in jail for more than a year, so she knows it's not his baby. Moreoever, Len is very possessive and becomes violent if another man so much as looks at his wife admiringly... and he's due out of prison in another six or seven months.

Sylvie has been to see her sister, hoping she can find a solution to this problem, but her sister just kept asking why on earth she did such a stupid thing. Enter Brendan, a policeman off-duty, who startles Sylvie so much that she falls into the river, and (naturally) he rescues her.

As a plot opening, it's hardly subtle. Indeed it was so dramatic I had to read it twice before I realised that yes, Sylvie really is both stupid and selfish, and that the strong, handsome Brendan is probably going to fall in love with her. The only person I felt much sympathy with by the end of the first chapter was Sylvie's sister, and she doesn't come into the book again.

In chapter two we learn that Brendan has a convenient cousin in Dublin who will be happy to look after Sylvie and help her get the baby adopted. We also learn that Sylvie is good at manipulating people and inventing stories which fool almost everyone other than her mother.

I like to feel some rapport with the heroines of novels, or at least to wish them well. Unfortunately, Sylvie appears to have few, if any redeeming features, while Brendan is portrayed as having almost no faults at all. Moreover, there seemed no future for any relationship between them. Yet in this kind of book the hero and heroine usually meet in the first chapter and end up together after misunderstandings or traumas that keep them apart for several hundred pages.

The story moves slowly at first, while Sylvia concocts a fabricated story that will arouse no suspicions from her in-laws. Once she arrives in Ireland, it gets more interesting; the Irish relatives are much more believable and likeable as characters: not well-off, but loving and warm, welcoming and caring for Sylvie despite her faults. She takes advantage of them somewhat, particularly their child-minder, 12-year-old Maeve. But nobody seems to mind...

In a way this book felt more like a soap opera than a novel. There are plenty of dramatic scenes and sub-plots, but it's hard to get hold of a broad theme or overall plot. Sometimes the action is in Liverpool, sometimes in Dublin. There are many minor characters, some of whom die off conveniently when no longer needed, and extras appear as necessary. Some of the scenes are very clichéd too, starting right at the beginning with the dramatic river rescue where Brendan and Sylvie first meet.

And yet... I found myself wanting to keep reading. Even though many of the outcomes to the sub-plots were predictable, they were well-written, with just enough suspense to keep me turning the pages. The conversations flowed well, with just enough colloquial language to help me 'hear' the voices and accents - yet not so much that it became awkward to read. There was enough description to enable me to imagine the locations and people fairly clearly, but not so much that I became bored.

I was interested in the social history aspect, too, assuming it was well enough researched to be authentic. World War I comes and goes, as does the flu epidemic that killed so many. Both have impact on some of the characters. Some novels written in this period are so full of gritty reality that I shudder and draw back, squeamishly. But this one only touches lightly on the extreme poverty and abuse that was all too common, with no social services to help out. I find that hints of horrors actually touch me much more deeply than detailed descriptions - and in this respect I felt that the author got it just right.

I like books to have encouraging endings with all the ends tied neatly, and this one fills that criteria pretty well. It's a bit contrived at times, perhaps too tidy, but I didn't fully realise that until after I'd finished.

Five hundred pages might seem daunting to some, but I read it in a week. I was never so gripped that I couldn't put it down, but I was quite eager to pick it up again for another few chapters each evening. Sometimes I had to glance back at what I read the previous day to remember what it was about - but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'd count it as a good light read, so long as you overlook the clichéd situations and some of the characters being rather flat.

Early 20th century Liverpool sagas seem popular these days, and although this doesn't have the time-span to qualify as a saga, it's worth reading by anyone who likes that genre.

My thanks to the publishers for sending this book.

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Beverley Kerry said:

Oh, this review sums up the book perfectly. I agree with every word except I read the book in two evenings, staying up until 4AM to finish it! This book was the one that kickstarted my love of historical and period dramas. I pictured the characters in my mind, empathised with them and almost went through a sense of grieving when the book ended, I had been so deeply involved in the story.

I really, really hope this book has a planned sequel, or I think I will be left bereaved for evermore!