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Book DetailsISBN: 9781925791372
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Book Review: The Lost Girls by Jennifer Spence - Reviewed by CloggieA (13 Mar 2019)
5 stars The Lost Girls is the fourth novel by Australian author, Jennifer Spence. When sixty-three-year-old Stella Lannigan heads for the cinema it’s November 2017. When she emerges, slightly drowsy, the first thing she notices is that the jacaranda blooms have disappeared. It’s not until she’s standing in front of the former Engineering Building in their waterfront suburb, registering the missing keypad by the door and the state of dilapidation, that she notices other anomalies: the absence of smart phones and transport card readers on the bus, defunct businesses still operational, trees smaller than remembered.
Richard, her husband of some forty years, will be waiting for her in their apartment, but it seems not to be there. She wanders past their former home, and begins to realise that this is not the world as she left it. And then Stella, forty-three-year-old Stella, comes out of the house. Older Stella considers for only a moment before calling out to her younger self: she presents as Linda McCutcheon, her mother Anne’s younger sister, who went missing almost fifty years earlier.
Invited in, she meets her fifteen-year-old son, Julian, her twenty-years-younger husband, and her daughter, Claire, soon to turn twelve. The newspaper proclaims August 1997. Well aware of the far-reaching consequences that may result from anything she does, Stella nonetheless determines to do whatever she can to save Claire from her awful fate, in that stinking alley off Riley Street, in 2001, a scene that she has never been able to erase from her mind.
This is the fascinating start to a time-travel novel with a difference. Does Stella actually change the past, and therefore the future? Current research into memory has discovered that every time we take out a memory and examine it, we change it. Stella’s memory of her daughter’s demise and the ensuing years does seem, on first telling, strong and definite.
But then those memories, and her recall of the last twenty years, certainly changes, quite radically, each time she brings it to mind. Is that really because of her actions, because of what she does as she tries to influence the lives of those she loves? Ever present in the background of all this is the unexplained disappearance of Aunt Linda, something which always intrigued Stella, a mystery about which she now is finding more clues.
Spence easily evokes her settings, both time and place, with some beautiful descriptive prose and mentions of technology and literature that firmly establish the era. Her characters are easily believable, their dialogue natural. The logistics of the time travel aspect are well handled, and Stella’s interpretation of it is credible. This is a novel that will have the reader thinking about memory, about the fiercely protective instinct of a mother, and about the many possible paths that lives can take. Moving and thought-provoking, this is a captivating read. This unbiased review is from a copy provided by Simon & Schuster Australia
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