I’ll start off by saying neither Peter Pan nor Alice show up in this woven tale beyond the degree of how I have already mentioned in the first post here. Too bad. I didn’t expect them to be a major part of the story. But from what I had heard, I suppose I expected more of a tie in or a featuring of them. But it matters little, for the novel is quite good. As one would expect from Gregory Maguire. The way the literature of Barrie and Carroll [and Dickens and Lewis and Travers and Bond and Milne and Grahame and …] are woven into it is quite satisfying as it stands anyway. Often merely mentions, but ever so poignant.
Lost is the tale of a writer who is trying to hammer out a new novel (her first book not for children). She travels to London to visit with her cousin and soak up some local flavors. For the would-be main character of her planning-stages-going-nowhere novel, Wendy, is obsessed with the unsolved mystery of the horrendous Jack the Ripper. But when Winifred (the writer) arrives, she finds mystery of her own. Her cousin John has vanished without a trace. Two odd (in personality) construction workers are doing work on his home, or actually, not. They’re spooked by a tapping in the wall. John’s home has been in his and Winifred’s family for generations. It’s allegedly the house of the man whom Dickens fictionalized into Ebenezer Scrooge. Hence, Winnie is a descendant of “Scrooge” – if the family stories are to be believed. Winnie gets caught up in the belief that the house is haunted, meets many strange neighbor folk and tries frantically to make sense of the situation: the disappearance of John, the supernatural presence and the mess she’s made of her life. This “mess” is of course, revealed gradually throughout the novel.
A rather fun touch is some of the novel appears in a font not unlike typewriter style. These passages are like the bits of Wendy’s story that Winnie has committed to paper. Or are they more than that?
Maguire does a wonderful job with the overall creepiness. He keeps you wondering all the way. Sometimes when you get an answer, it’s a tad disappointing. “Oh…is that all it is?” But immediately it’s replaced with another (sometimes supernatural) curiosity to pique. As Alice remarks, Curiouser and curiouser! So for every “answer” received, new questions arise. Just how I like a story to go. Then... it took a very corny turn. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s the sort of thing to make the eyes roll. Fortunately I rolled right along with it… for Maguire skillfully pulls it out from “this is just silly” and pushes it into a spin. A spin, or take perhaps, which shakes what you thought you knew of such situations. He’s pushed it beyond the surface and into the story, so that it brings about intense questions. Questions which go along with the very title of the piece. How much is every truly Lost? And what can be regained? Scrooge?
It’s intriguing, fun and peppered with eerie. I love Maguire’s dense prose. Once you’re in the thick of it, it surrounds you. It’s evident that he’s totally immersed in his worlds and demands nothing less of you.
I didn’t fail to notice this book also has a bit of the “fictionalize real people” element to it. It just doesn’t sit write (ha!) with me. At least here it is rather mild, unlike Rodrigo Fresán’s Kensington Gardens.
Lost is an odd book. But it’s also an expertly compiled hodgepodge of “lost” characters in every sense of the word. Worth the read. Bravo Maguire!