The Lost Child – Emily Gunnis
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery
1960. Thirteen-year-old Rebecca and her mother live in fear of Rebecca’s father’s violent temper. As a storm batters Seaview Cottage one night, Rebecca hears a visitor at the door and an argument ensues. By the time the police arrive, the visitor has fled and both Rebecca’s parents are dead. No one believes Rebecca’s story that she heard a stranger downstairs…
2014. Iris, a journalist, is sent to cover the story of a new mother on the run with her desperately ill baby, as the police race against time to find them. When the trail leads back to Seaview Cottage, the childhood home of Iris’s own mother, Rebecca, Iris must unravel the events of the night Rebecca is desperate to forget for Seaview Cottage to give up its secrets. To find the truth she must follow in her mother’s footsteps.
I would first like to thank Anne from Random Things Tours for inviting me on the blog tour for this book and providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. If you would like to check out the other stops on the tour, please check out the details at the bottom of this post.
I think we can all agree that the world is a pretty strange place right now, to put it lightly. In order to cope with my heightened levels of anxiety, I have found myself reading even more than usual. We need great books now more than ever, because a great book draws the reader into a fictional world, allowing the reader to forget their current struggles and anxieties. This is what I experienced while reading The Lost Child, a multi-layered, gripping mystery by Emily Gunnis.
The narrative in The Lost Child spans several time periods. In 1945, Harriet and Jacob Waterhouse are facing life after the end of World War II. Jacob is traumatised by his experiences during the war. He is no longer the man that Harriet married. He is violent, abusive, paranoid and haunted by his memories. As a result of Jacob’s behaviour, the couple is forced to re-locate to a new home and place of work. When they take up service roles for an upper-class family they have no idea how their lives are about to change.
In 1960, Rebecca Waterhouse experiences a tragedy that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Over the course of one fateful night, both of Rebecca’s parents are killed. Rebecca is adamant that she heard someone knock on the door before her father beat her mother to death, but no one believes her. The police believe that Rebecca’s father beat her mother before shooting himself, but the night is shrouded in mystery. Rebecca refuses to talk about that night thereafter.
“They were desperate to be together, united in their euphoria, singing and shouting from every doorway, window, rooftop, lamp post.” – The Lost Child, Emily Gunnis
In 2014, Jessie Roberts, Rebecca’s daughter, goes missing the day after giving birth. Jessie’s newborn baby has an infection and needs urgent treatment, but she is experiencing postpartum psychosis and is convinced that the doctors are trying to poison her baby. The need to find Jessie is urgent; if the baby does not receive medical treatment within 24 hours, it is likely that she will die. Iris, Jessie’s half-sister and a journalist, as well as Jessie’s father Harvey, assist the police with the hunt for Jessie and baby Elizabeth. In order to find Jessie, Iris and Harvey confront the past and discover the truths that were hidden by those who they thought they knew.
The Lost Child is a multi-layered, intricate mystery with elements of historical fiction. The weaving of multiple narratives creates a level of suspense that captivated me from start to finish. To put it simply, I was hooked. Gunnis is a master at creating intrigue; there is not a single dull moment in this book.
“The pain is in the fact that I can’t trust the world any more. I can’t trust my judgement. I can’t tell any more who is good or bad. Except you.” – The Lost Child, Emily Gunnis
The Lost Child is by no means a light-hearted read. It is emotionally draining and gut-wrenching at times, especially given the strong focus on mental health issues and issues of women’s rights, but the ending is wonderfully sweet. I do not want to give away any spoilers, but I will say this about the ending: I was impressed by how the different elements and time periods tied together in the end. This can be difficult when dealing with multiple timelines, but Gunnis makes it seem effortless.
I highly recommend this novel for those who enjoy mysteries and historical fiction. The Lost Child would also be a fascinating read for anyone who is interested in a story which highlights how those with mental health issues were treated in the not-so-distant past. There is a strong emphasis on postnatal psychosis, which I found absolutely fascinating. The manner in which women with this condition were treated less than fifty years ago was eye-opening to me.
Overall, The Lost Child by Emily Gunnis is a well-researched, complex, gripping mystery with an important message. I am now eager to read Gunnis’ debut work The Girl in the Letter.
Emily Gunnis previously worked in TV drama and lives in Brighton with her young family. She is one of the four daughters of Sunday Times bestselling author Penny Vincenzi. The Lost Child is her second novel.