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The Lost Child

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  407 ratings  ·  84 reviews
Caryl Phillips reimagines Emily Bronte's melodramatic "Wuthering Heights", weaving the past and the present into a modern story of exile and difference.

Caryl Phillips's The Lost Child is a sweeping story of orphans and outcasts, haunted by the past and fighting to liberate themselves from it. At its center is Monica Johnson - cut off from her parents after falling in love
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published March 3rd 2015)
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Average rating 3.25  · 
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i was so excited to read this book. i will read any book that uses Wuthering Heights as its jumping-off point, and since i have been meaning to read caryl phillips for a long time this seemed to be a perfect opportunity. but if you are like me, and reading this for the WH bits, don't expect this to scratch that itch. yes, there are a couple of chapters that imagine the early life and "rescue" of heathcliff by mr. earnshaw, and it ends with heathcliff's arrival on the moors where the great ...more
Elizabeth George
Nov 30, 2018 rated it liked it
I think it's a bit of false advertising for the publisher to call this book a re-imagining of Emily Bronte's masterpiece. The writing is beautiful and the sense of place is outstanding, but at the end of the day--or better said, at the end of the reading--I came away feeling that the book was neither fish nor fowl. It's much more of the modern day story than it is about the Bronte story, so for readers expecting a retelling of Wuthering Heights--perhaps from the POV of Heathcliff or one of minor ...more
La Tonya  Jordan
Nov 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to La Tonya by: Go On Girl Book Club! NAACP Book Review
Shelves: good-read
This book starts with a story of an enslaved woman who is abused, dies, and leaves a son. It jumps from that time frame to Oxford, England, in 1957, to introduce a university student in her second year by the name of Monica Johnson who is about to be disowned by her father for dating a foreign.

The book takes you through the life of Monica Johnson from childhood, puberty, adulthood, marriage, mother of two boys, divorce, estranged parents, poverty, death of a son, mental break down,
Lost boys. And I’m not talking vampires or Peter Pan, but truly lost children.

An interesting book to read beside and following Lullabies for Little Criminals. Both books examine the situation of the child from an unprivileged upbringing, but I found that LfLC left me with a more hopeful feeling.

This book was Bronte inspired—there are chapters re-imagining the situation of Heathcliff and there is one chapter devoted to Emily and Charlotte. It examines hardship from three directions, really. The
Karen Hagerman
May 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
This would have been an easy 5 stars except for the short insertion of 2 separate story lines, out of nowhere, into the plot. Most people are familiar with Wuthering Heights so it wasn't hard to figure out Heathcliff, but many people may not be as familiar with the lives of the Bronte sisters (I only am because I read a great novel about them years ago)and therefore I'm sure were left very confused. I had to read the NYT review of the book to figure out what these two separate stories had to do ...more
Mar 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
I made it to part III, though I'd had enough of this mangled tale of woe by part II. If anything, it was overwritten, as if the author was thinking, "How many words can I use and still make sense?" I had trouble following the story. The female characters were largely discounted and voiceless, and the male characters were so self-centered and arrogant that I could only stomach so much and quit while I was ahead. Talk about misogynistic!

So I'm done reading this terribly written book. Thank
Deborah Dameron
Feb 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is very complex and hard to follow at times but really worth the effort. It weaves together several different family stories that all have the same themes. It is interesting how the characters in Wuthering Heights as well as the Bronte sisters themselves get thrown into the mix. the author doesn't explain everything but leaves some explanations to the reader's imagination. it probably should be read twice
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
I decided to go with one of the lowest rated on my to-read list for my 2015 book challenge "A book with Low reviews" it has an average rating of 3.18 on Goodreads. This book had potential but lacked flow to me. I enjoyed the main story line of Monica and her family but didn't feel the other stories/characters blended together at all and left me feeling more confused than anything.
Apr 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
I don't think I understood this book at all. I felt like the story went around in circles. I thought the prologue was really good, but I didn't see what it had to do with the main characters (Monica, Ben, and Tommy). Those three characters were the main part of the book. I don't know who Emily was. Joseph I guess was the father of the kid in the prologue, but those two characters had only one chapter. The words also made it really hard to read. I don't know, I feel like the story went around in ...more
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015-grac-read
"The Lost Child" is about a number of lost people, in all ages of life. A book of depth, tragedy and loss, it touched me in so many ways. It's really difficult to love without great amounts of forgiveness. Much of the lostness in life (and this book) is related to anger, fear and unforgiveness. Will we ever learn?
Rebecca McNutt
Nov 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, family, england
I liked this book, but there wasn't really anything outstanding or memorable about it.
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the first of Phillips's books I've read, on recommendation from a colleague I met at a conference this fall. The Lost Child unfolded very gradually, and it wasn't until the end, once I had the big picture, that I realized how intentionally and effectively he had crafted parallel narratives of Emily Bronte's life, the lives of her characters, and the lives of people in twentieth-century England. It's quite marvelous.
Apr 29, 2015 rated it liked it
A polyphonic narrative that shows the rearing and destruction of children of all kinds - and how racist thoughts ever so subtly (perhaps more subtly here than in any other novel I've read) permeate actions and tear down relationships.

On the periphery are Phillips's reimagined life of Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights coming to the English moors and Branwell Brontë's decay in a family of such literary stars (ahem, Anne - Charlotte - Emily). Central is Phillips's fictional project: a woman, Monica,
Oct 17, 2015 rated it liked it
The May 31, 2015 review by "Karen" eloquently and thoroughly captures my reaction and thoughts. While the parallels drawn between Wuthering Heights and Monica's tale don't work well, Caryl Phillips is an evocative and thoughtful writer taking on issues of race, and I look forward to reading more by him.
John Dalton
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Beautiful, ornate prose about several disconnected threads that never come together in a knot. It seems to want to provide some backstory on Heathcliff, but is so muddled it can decide what it wants to be.
It would have been 1 star were it not for the writing.
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Perhaps I had expected something on the order of Wide Sargasso Sea. That is a tall order. I was disappointed.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
It is not a retelling of Wuthering Heights about Heathcliff’s origins. Instead it is a very modern story of a mother initially marrying a man her parents don’t approve of and then her later struggle to look after her two sons and the consequences of that particularly on the elder son and his difficult life because of that. It is about children with difficult childhoods and about the difficulties of foster-care. I did enjoy it despite it being about a dysfunctional family with problems as it felt ...more
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think it's a shame that the book is marketed as a Bronte related book, because the beauty is in the fully drawn, so real it hurts story of Monica, her sons, and the bombastic, selfish men in her life. Set in 1950s- 1970s Britain, it captures so much of that grey, tower block, TV watching, grinding life. Like another reviewer, I was a bit frustrated by the silence of the women in this book, they were very much drawn as victims with very little agency or insight into their lives. But as I read ...more
Barbara Barrow
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love a lean prose like the one Phillips uses here. This is a novel that riffs on Wuthering Heights, but the parallels are more symbolic than literal. It's narrated in third and first person. There are a couple of evocative Heathcliff passages, and a brief episode about the Bronte sisters themselves, but most of the book follows a young woman, Monica, through an unhappy marriage and a family life marred by tragedy. A lyrical meditation on loneliness, mistreatment, and abandonment.
Kathy Piselli
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found myself having to reread and reread because the important bits of the story were so carefully embedded (what happened to Monica, what happened to Tommy). I didn't like that; it spoiled the atmosphere. For me, the facts needed to be just a little less camouflaged. I am also hampered by not having read Wuthering Heights in so long that I couldn't make any coherent connection. But I'd like to try a different book of this writer; he still intrigues me.
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have now declared myself a Caryl Phillips fan and am already mourning the fact that I don't have time to read all of his oeuvre because of new books I have to read for my job and books I have to read for school. But I will find time for some of his other works because holy COW can he write. And beautifully. And with so much nuance. And just... Gah. Read this.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved this. A sad, beautifully written book -- essentially a spinning out of themes around Heathcliff (from Wuthering Heights, not the cat) as a child (biraciality, neglect, abuse). I can imagine that if you haven't read Wuthering Heights and/or don't know anything about the Brontes you will miss a lot.
Jan 17, 2020 rated it liked it
A thought provoking weaving of an original modern and classic narrative in a tale about the vulnerability of women and children and the impact of poverty. Tantalising glimpses of another perspective to a much loved Classic.
Jul 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
Really not a fan of these knock-off fictions. The set up to get to Heathcliff (he of Wuthering Heights) takes too long, and the writing weighs it down further. I don’t know if the intent was portentous, but for me it just felt pretentious.
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
As a Bronte sister groupie, I wanted to love this book. There are a few pages where the story takes place with the Brontes but the attempt to tie it to the their atmosphere was just one of the many disconnects that made it an irritable read. *Dislike giving bummer reviews :*
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Depressing. Combination of Wuthering Heights, Bronte family biography, and mid 20th century London and Yorkshire. Unhappy characters throughout.
Liza Palmer
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
"She likes to sit down by the docks in a place where sunlight can discover her face."
Jane Campbell
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I was aware of how good the writing is as I was reading. I found the section on the Bronte’s most intriguing.
The book gets better with each read! Got to love Phillips' prose and engagement with past and present.
Cathie Jayakumar
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: post-colonial
Excellent read, Phillips at his prime
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Caryl Phillips was born in St.Kitts and came to Britain at the age of four months. He grew up in Leeds, and studied English Literature at Oxford University.

He began writing for the theatre and his plays include Strange Fruit (1980), Where There is Darkness (1982) and The Shelter (1983). He won the BBC Giles Cooper Award for Best Radio Play of the year with The Wasted Years (1984). He has written
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