Magazine article The Spectator

'The Lost Child', by Caryl Phillips - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'The Lost Child', by Caryl Phillips - Review

Article excerpt

The Lost Child Caryl Phillips

Oneworld, pp.260, £14.99, ISBN: 9781780746999

The Lost Child begins with a scene of 18th-century distress and dissolution down by the docks, as a woman -- once a slave in the West Indies, for a time a weaver and now an itinerant single mother dubbed 'Crazy Woman' by those who might toss a coin in her direction -- finally gives up the unequal struggle. What becomes of her son, in whom still beats 'a strong and tenacious heart' despite his abandonment, is for the moment unclear; his connection to the novel Wuthering Heights occupies a later portion of this sometimes frustratingly patchwork novel. For now, though, we are transported to 1950s Oxford and a woman with rather better prospects: Monica Johnson, whom we meet as she is entertaining her father over tea and Dundee cake in her college room.

But the reader's initial confidence in Monica's improved life chances is misplaced; the bulk of the narrative maps her meandering path downhill. Almost immediately we have met her, she quits her degree course to marry Julius Wilson, a postgraduate and big wheel in the Overseas Student Association; before too long, the pair find themselves crammed into a London bedsit with two small sons and a future that hinges precariously on Julius's advancement in the People's Action Party, the political movement that hopes to gain power in the unnamed Caribbean country of his birth.

If Julius wonders what Monica gets up to all day, then so do we: the curious blankness that emanates from her is at the heart of the novel, but is never quite explained. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.