Title: The Lost Girls
Author: Jennifer Spence
Published: February 1st 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
A haunting tale of love and loss that will make you think twice
What would you do if you had the chance to change a pivotal moment from your past?
How far would you go to save someone you loved?
These are just two of the fateful choices a woman is forced to grapple with in this highly original and hauntingly evocative detective story of love and loss.
At the core of the enigmatic Stella’s story, past and present, is a mystery she is compelled to solve, a beautiful young woman who went missing fifty years ago – and a tragedy much closer to home she must try to prevent.
As Stella unravels the dark secrets of her family’s past and her own, it becomes clear that everyone remembers the past differently and the small choices we make every day can change our future irrevocably.
The Lost Girls by Jennifer Spence has been flagged as a ‘Guaranteed Read’ from publisher Simon & Schuster. I have to agree with this cover sticker, this is a stunning read from cover to cover. Enlightening and imaginative, The Lost Girls crosses moral codes and the edge of reason.
Think of a life changing moment from your past, would you change it if it was at all possible? If you lost a loved one and you had the chance to save them in the past, would you go to the ends of the earth to save them? What original and stimulating scenarios, that clearly involve careful consideration. One woman is delivered a polarising twist of fate when she finds herself locked back in the past. Stella’s life has been marred by both love and loss, but a chance opportunity to go back to the past and set things differently throws up all sorts of moral conundrums. Two mysteries define this intriguing novel from Australian author Jennifer Spence. One is centred on preventing a family tragedy and the other is a missing person’s case. In getting to the bottom of these mysteries, Stella must re-enter her past. She must work to untangle her family secrets and take a critical eye on the choices made, no matter how small, as they clearly impact on the turn of events in today’s world. The Lost Girls is about fractured and conclusive memories, snapshots into the past and the decisions we make on a daily basis.
The eye-catching torn floral wallpaper cover of The Lost Girls immediately seduced me to read this novel. The cover is like a window into the soul of this book. I wanted to crawl inside the gap and discover the secrets of the lost girls.
‘She puts her head on my shoulder and her emotions, the grief of the crowd and the innocence of the day all descend on me and I weep with her. We weep for Diana, for Linda, for Claire, even for myself. We weep together for all the lost girls.’
Jennifer Spence’s prose is beautiful. It has a lyrical and graceful quality. It evokes emotion and touches the audience through the simple gesture of reading. I appreciated it very much and the overall tone of the novel itself worked particularly well for me.
The concept, well, I am not a fan of time travel and I will say The Lost Girls does employ this theme and narrative fixture. However, despite my reservations about not liking time travel fiction, I make the exception with this one. I loved the storyline and for once, the time travel aspect didn’t bother me! I did have questions about the whole mechanics of the time travel thing, but I was able to get over this for the sake of the engrossing storyline.
The Lost Girls is much more than a time travel novel. I think, at its core, it is a book about memories. It is about how we make, store and retrieve memories. It is about the associations we make to our lives. It is also a critical examination into moral boundaries. It makes you think deeply about the possibility of change to an aspect of your life. Could you go through with altering your fate? In the case of this story in particular, I understood why the lead character went to such lengths to prevent a family tragedy. It was completely understandable and acceptable. But, in tinkering with the past, there are consequences to pay, which we learn through the progression of this novel.
What really worked for me, was the glimpse back into the past. When the lead is catapulted back into the past, she meets herself twenty years before. This is a time that holds powerful memories for me personally. It was when I became a young adult. This is a time I always look back on fondly, a time of less world craziness and life was scaled back. Mobile phones were still a novelty, there was no social media, dial up internet existed and we were all concerned about the millennium bug! Spence encapsulates us in the not too distant past with clarity and understanding. I really liked her focus on key world events that defined this time, such as Princess Diana’s death. It transported back to this tragic moment in time very vividly.
The Lost Girls is a beautifully rendered Australian based mystery. It did come with some moments where I had to really think carefully about what I was reading, but this is a sign of a sharp writer. Jennifer Spence has crafted a novel that incorporates mystery, identity, salvation, sacrifice and memory, all within the one involving novel. I savoured this one, it was a transfixing read. I am keen to catch up on the previous suspense novel penned by this author.
‘Thinking along these lines gives me a pang of longing for Richard, for the comfort of his arms around me, and tears come to my eyes. All this is eating away at the edges of my identity, so that I still wake up sometimes wondering if I really do know who I am.’
The Lost Girls by Jennifer Spence was published on 1st February 2019 by Simon & Schuster. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*Thanks is extended to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Lost Girls is book #14 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge