May 08, 2009

The Lost Life - Steven Carroll

I must admit I have not really been tempted to pick up one of Steven Carroll's books before - even though he is an award winning Australian author I just didn't think his novels and their subject matter were all that appealing to me. I am so, so glad I was tempted to pick up The Lost Life though - because it means I have now discovered another amazing author to add to my TBR pile.

I was drawn to The Lost Life for a couple of reasons - firstly the cover. I know it is completely superficial but the cover of a book does make a difference for me - I have to feel drawn to it and it has to feel "right" - by that I mean, right for the book it is representing and portraying. The cover of The Lost Life felt perfect to me - and I feel that way even more now that I have finished the book.

The second thing that drew me in to reading this book was it's setting - England, September 1934 - both a location and an era in time which I love reading about.

The story of the book centres around two couples - Catherine and Daniel, young and newly in love and an older couple T.S. Eliot and Emily Hale. The paths of the two couples cross over in the garden of an English country estate one September afternoon where Catherine and Daniel observe the older couple (without their knowledge) engaging in a poetic and romantic ritual declaring their love for each other - a love that cannot be openly acknowledged due to Eliot's marriage to another woman.

The events of that afternoon lead to interactions between the two couples but especially between Catherine and Emily and we see quite clearly the different stages the two women are at both in terms of their relationships and their lives in general. It is these narratives that guide the story and allow us to see into the lives of the individuals, but also the relationships, in such an acute way.

I must admit I am not a huge poetry reader and really only know about T.S. Eliot from having to study his poems (particularly The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock) in my university days so I was not sure how close to reality this fictional relationship between the poet and Emily Hale actually was - this article from The Australian has some interesting insights - although it does have a couple of spoilers in relation to the book so I would recommend reading it afterwards if you are interested.

This book is simply gorgeous - I read it over two nights but could have finished it quicker if I didn't need sleep! A quote on the back of the book from The Australian newspaper declares this "A writer worth cherishing. His prose is unfailingly assured, lyrical, poised" - I could not possibly put it better myself.


Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

Gorgeous cover. And it sounds terrific.

Anonymous said...

Like yourself, I've not been inspired to try Steven Carroll despite the Miles. It sounds like I should change that, so I will look out for his work.

Tamara said...

You're right, the cover's got so much to do with the choice - This cover's tempting in a vintage way. Sounds like a great story too. I'm plodding my way through Valley of Grace, but this one sounds so much better..

Karen said...

Hi Holly - definitely a beautiful cover and a beautiful book.

Hi adevotedreader - I'm not sure what Carroll's other work is like but I'm going to at least give it a go after loving this one so much.

Hi Tamara - I've heard mixed reviews about Valley of Grace - it has a gorgeous cover and setting too.

Lisa said...

I haven't read anything by this author. This sounds like something I would like. I am generally drawn to books that contain real characters in which parts of their lives are fictionalized without straying too far from reality. I have to agree with you regarding the covers of books. They do make a difference. It's funny to me that authors usually have very little input into the cover art.

Karen said...

Hi Lisa - I'm with you, I've been reading quite a few books like that lately and I have really been enjoying them.

megan said...

Thanks for the review - it's going on my list!

Iliana said...

I don't really know anything about T.S. Eliot so I know that part of the book will probably go over my head but I really like the sound of this one. Great review and will be looking for it!

Karen said...

Hi Megan - looking forward to hearing what you think!

Hi Iliana - I don't think not knowing anything about Eliot would affect your reading of this one. I was pretty much in that boat (all I really knew was that he was a poet!) and I loved the book.

Eva said...

I love that cover too! And after your review, I definitely want to go read it. :D

Anonymous said...

Loved this book...Have also read "The Time we have Taken" and recently the fantastic "Spirit of Progress. He is my favourite Australian author...even though I only discovered him about 6 weeks ago. The Lost Life is a truly beautiful book.

Anonymous said...

I have just finished reading the wonderful Spirit of Progress. It's a vivid depiction of life in post-war Melbourne seen from the point of view of people from various strands of Melbourne society. Steve Carroll is one of Australia's best authors. I've read most of his books and can hardly wait to read The Lost Life.

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