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.