What Was Lost
By Catherine O'Flynn
(Holt Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780805088335, 256pp.)
Publication Date: June 24, 2008
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A tender and sharply observant debut novel about a missing young girl—winner of the Costa First Novel Award and long-listed for the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and The Guardian First Book Award
In the 1980s, Kate Meaney—“Top Secret” notebook and toy monkey in tow—is hard at work as a junior detective. Busy trailing “suspects” and carefully observing everything around her at the newly opened Green Oaks shopping mall, she forms an unlikely friendship with Adrian, the son of a local shopkeeper. But when this curious, independent-spirited young girl disappears, Adrian falls under suspicion and is hounded out of his home by the press.
Then, in 2003, Adrian’s sister Lisa—stuck in a dead-end relationship—is working as a manager at Your Music, a discount record store. Every day she tears her hair out at the outrageous behavior of her customers and colleagues. But along with a security guard, Kurt, she becomes entranced by the little girl glimpsed on the mall’s surveillance cameras. As their after-hours friendship intensifies, Lisa and Kurt investigate how these sightings might be connected to the unsettling history of Green Oaks itself. Written with warmth and wit, What Was Lost is a haunting debut from an incredible new talent.
Catherine O'Flynn's is the author of The News Where You Are and What Was Lost, which won the Costa First Novel Award in 2007, was short-listed for The Guardian First Book Award, and was long-listed for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize. She lives in Birmingham, England.
1. What drove Kate into an imaginary detective world? What sort of heroism does she fantasize about?
“What Was Lost is a terrific, wonderful book and I loved every page of it.”—Douglas Coupland, author of The Gum Thief
“An off-beat quirky little mystery which punches way above its weight. Set in Birmingham in the mid-eighties, adolescent loner Kate aspires to be a great detective, spending days on stake-out at her local shopping centre. The narrative then jumps 20 years, when the ghost of a little girl starts appearing in service corridors. The author’s achingly astute observations on consumerism make this far more than a generic mystery and the icing on the cake is a twist in the tail which I really didn’t see coming.”—Marian Keyes, author of Anybody Out There? and Angels
“What Was Lost is a delight to read—poignant, suspenseful, funny and smart. . . . [It] is a moving novel, bespeaking not only the energy and inventiveness of its author but also the power of good old realism.”—Jane Smiley, LA Times Sunday Book Review
“The bravest and most appealing adolescent this side of The Lovely Bones, aspiring detective Kate Meaney vanishes partway through Catherine O’Flynn’s mesmerizing debut novel, What Was Lost. . . There are many ways to feel invisible, we learn from this gentle, sharp-sighted tale of love and loneliness. And there are many ways to be found.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Engrossing. . . With a sure hand for both suspense and satire, O’Flynn is a masterful writer, and her book a delicious mash-up of Nancy Drew and High Fidelity—teary and tart in the right proportions.”—Marie Claire
"At once moving and wickedly funny, [What Was Lost] is one dazzling debut."—People (four stars)