23/12/2006

Little Girl Lost (by Katie Flynn)

I quite like light historical novels, but am generally not so keen on the rather gritty ones that tend to be set in Liverpool around the turn of the 20th century. However I found this one, 'Little Girl Lost' by Katie Flynn, to get about the right balance as far as the realism goes. There was no glossing over the poverty, suffering and abuse that went on, but few details were given: none that made me wince or feel squeamish.

The plot centres firstly on Sylvie, who is walking along the banks of the Mersey trying to solve a problem: she's pregnant, but not by her husband who is in jail. Moreoever, he's a violent and possessive man. Her sister (not surprisingly) just thinks she was stupid to get herself in this position. Enter Brendan, a policeman off-duty, who startles Sylvie so much that she falls into the river, and (naturally) he rescues her.

It's a clich├ęd opening, and the book is rather full of such scenarios. It's also rather confusingly structured more like a soap than a novel. There are plenty of dramatic scenes and sub-plots, but it's hard to get hold of a broad theme or overall plot. Sometimes the action is in Liverpool, sometimes in Dublin. There are many minor characters, some of whom die off conveniently when no longer needed, and extras appear as necessary.

Moreover I had very little sympathy for Sylvie who is both selfish and stupid, and it was hard to believe in Brendan, who is not only handsome, brave and kind, but solves her problems easily by producing a cousin in Ireland who can look after her until the baby is born and can be adopted.

However the Irish family were much more believable and rounded, and I found their story rather more interesting than that of Sylvie. Despite a slow start, I found myself wanting to keep reading. Even though many of the outcomes to the sub-plots were predictable, they were well-written, with just enough suspense to keep me turning the pages. The conversations flowed well, with sufficient colloquial language to help me 'hear' the voices and accents - yet not so much that it became awkward to read. There was enough description to enable me to imagine the locations and people fairly clearly, but not so much that I became bored.

The ending was encouraging too, if a bit too tidy and contrived. So, all in all, recommended for anyone who likes this kind of book.

(If you're interested, you can read my longer review of 'Little Girl Lost' at The BookBag)

No comments: