Title: The Lost Ones
Author: Anita Frank
Published: October 21st 2019
Publisher: HQ Fiction – GB
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 5 stars
Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.
Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.
Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…
In the classic tradition of The Woman in Black, Anita Frank weaves a spell-binding debut of family tragedy, loss and redemption.
‘Some Houses are Never at Peace’
I absolutely adore gothic fiction. The Lost Ones, by first time novelist Anita Frank, is an example of one of the finest novels I have read from this branch of the historical fiction genre. The Lost Ones contains gentle waves of the supernatural, and it represents an excellent study of grievances of war. Anita Frank’s debut novel proved its worth and more, The Lost Ones was a five star read all the way for me.
Beginning in the year 1917, Britain is still at war, but Stella Marcham, a nurse on the front lines in France, returns bereft after the loss of her fiancé. In a bid to overcome her grief, Stella travels to Greyswick, a sprawling country abode, to see her beloved sister, who is pregnant. Soon after her arrival, Stella encounters much more than she bargained for. She finds a household of staff and family members rocked by suspicion, intrigue and anxiety. The presence of an unworldly spirit seems to haunt the halls of this opulent country mansion. The spirit attracts those above and below the stairs, gripping those in fear as odd events occurs. From children’s cries, to footsteps, unexplained rocking cribs and the strange placement of toys, there doesn’t appear to be an explanation for these spiralling events. Eventually, the man of the house, Stella’s brother in law, takes matters into his own hands. He calls on an injured soldier, a man who has a semi professional understanding of ghostly apparitions to help. Along with Stella and her perceptive maid Annie, all those who reside at the hall hope to put this restless spirit to rest.
The Lost Ones skipped the review queue when it landed in my mailbox in late July. With a release date set a few months away in October, I couldn’t resist taking a peak at this book. Before long, one page turned into two, then a chapter, and eventually the whole book. For me, The Lost Ones is exactly why I love to read, this book was exhilarating. I am just so pleased I have found a new author to watch thanks to this reading experience.
Set in 1917, one of my favourite historical time periods, Anita Frank does an absolutely superb job of setting her scene. The language is rich and clearly situated in the time period. We get a very good feel for the impact of war, especially on the home front. Frank zones in on those left behind to pick up the pieces, the senseless loss of life, and the dedication of those who signed up to fight for their country. Frank also looks at the balance between women gaining their voices and testing the waters of their new found freedom, in contrast to the opposite end of the spectrum. In Stella, a woman clearly severely heartbroken and unable to cope with her grief, we see a woman who is incorrectly labelled as insane and full of hysteria. Frank extends this impression of women as anxious, full of paranoia and hysteria when Stella’s pregnant sister (also suffering the loss of an unborn child) and maid Annie begin to see things out of the ordinary. Unable to assign a logical explanation to these sightings, it is easier to label these women as delusional, rather than take their claims seriously.
The Lost Ones has been compared to the popular classic ghost story The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, and a recent book from this genre, Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions, which are both supernatural themed stories. I am always a little sceptical of the supernatural and the unexplained. I am quite logical and fearful of what believing in these forces might mean. However, in the context of The Lost Ones, this side narrative thread perfectly complimented the story at hand. The ghostly appearances were portrayed well on the page and served a strong purpose, leading the mystery element of the novel.
Anita Frank knows a thing or two about the gothic thriller genre. In The Lost Ones, she has crafted an excellent novel, where we see Greyswick, the iconic stately home in this novel, as a character in its own right. The overwhelming presence of this property and the secrets it holds is one of the best areas of this novel.
Another aspect of the novel that I need to mention are the sequences involving Stella’s war time flashbacks. I was so impressed by the clarity, vivid detail and the heartbreak of what occurred. Stella’s story seemed to unfold in a very visual way and I did feel like I was right there with Stella as the terrible loss of her fiancé occurred. It was utterly heartbreaking and there were tears, but I feel the reader needed this information to fully comprehend the story at hand. Stella’s character growth plays a significant part in the novel and we bear witness to her difficult grief process. Eventually, Stella comes to the realisation that although she has lost her beloved fiancé forever, life does go on. This is aided by characters such as Annie, the maid and an injured war veteran.
I was taken aback when The Lost Ones reached its inevitable conclusion. I did not foresee the eventual conclusion and the final key turn which unlocked the central mystery of the novel. Thanks to the very astute and carefully plotted writing of Anita Frank, I was utterly at the mercy of the author until the bitter end of this spellbinding novel.
I am very in tune to the fact that I could go on and on about The Lost Ones, but I am sure you are now aware that I loved this novel. It is a blessing this reading game, to uncover new authors to follow, such as Anita Frank. I look forward to many more stories from this bright spark in the literary world. Anita Frank, I just adored your debut novel, The Lost Ones.
The Lost Ones by Anita Frank was published on 21st October 2019 by HQ Fiction – GB. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Lost Ones, Anita Frank, visit here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.