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The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater

Article by Swirl and Thread ©.
Posted in | | .

‘A missing daughter. A desperate mother. A night that changes everything…’

The Lost Girl is quite a personal story for the author as can be seen from the dedication at the end of the book…

‘Je suis Charlie.
In memory of all those innocents who lost their lives or were injured in the Paris atrocities of November 2015. Each had a family. Every one of those families has stories to tell, losses to learn to live with…..
Nous sommes tout Charlie’

Weaving two stories together Carol Drinkwater takes us back to post-war Provence and right into the atrocities in Paris on that unforgettable night in November 2015.

Read on for my thoughts…

Kurtiz Ross is suffering in silence. Her beautiful daughter Lizzie has not been seen or heard from in four years. After disappearing from the family home, when Kurtiz was on assignment in the Lebanon, there has been no trace since. Kurtiz blames herself for Lizzie’s disappearance.

Kurtiz married young, giving up her studies to look after her new born little girl. With her husband, Oliver, an actor on the cusp of ‘making it’, it seemed to Kurtiz the logical move to let Oliver develop his career further and she would remain at home. In the beginning, Oliver’s reputation as an actor spread, soon with very successful roles in TV dramas and more. As the years passed Kurtiz was happy, but always felt that she could be more. In time Oilver’s career took a fall and Kurtiz made a decision to earn money as a photographer, as it transpired a very talented one. An offer to change over to a more exciting career as a photographer in war-torn locations was something Kurtiz decided she could not refuse. By now Lizzie was older and her relationship with Oliver was on the rocks.

Kurtiz travelled to far-flung locations away from home for more lengthening spells. On one of these trips she receives the dreaded call, Lizzie has disappeared. As a mother and as a parent this would be a nightmare, a time of anguish, a time of guilt, a time where the world just stops and nothing else exists. Kurtiz ceases to live and just moves around in a daze hoping for a sign that Lizzie is safe and one day this sign arrives. Lizzie has been spotted in Paris.

Oliver and Kurtiz, though estranged at this stage, unite once more in their search for Lizzie. Oliver travels to Paris initially, with Kurtiz following sometime later, with a planned rendezvous in a cafe one evening. Oliver thinks he has found Lizzie and they hope to bring her home.

What Kurtiz could never have envisaged is the nightmare she soon finds herself in. On a typical November evening in Paris, the City of Lights was to be changed forever.

‘Bullets were perforating windows. Glass was shattering. People were screaming. Bodies were folding, falling. Cartridges were flying repeatedly, round after deafening round, the shallow flat cracks of a Kalashnikov, an AK-47 or AK-12. Behind her, the smokers’ chatter had been stunned to a cold silence.’

Kurtiz finds herself caught up in this horror. Yet out of this terror extends a hand of friendship from a very unlikely source. A chance meeting with Marguerite Courtenay, a successful French actress from a previous era, makes Kurtiz stop and take a look at her life, As Marguerite shares her own loss and tragedies with Kurtiz, we are taken on a journey back to Provence and the Cote D’Azur, to Antibes in the 1940’s, to a time, post-war, when the people of France were in recovery and folk looked forward to a better future.

I am a huge fan of historical fiction, so Marguerite’s story had me enthralled. I just adored the descriptions of Cannes…of Nice, the vividness of the blue skies, the azure colours of the Mediterranean sea. I could almost smell the heady perfume scent of jasmine, and the roses.

‘Palms and lemon trees adorned the coastal strips before the swift ascent to silvery olive groves, vineyards, mountainsides of lavender, jasmine and rose gardens.’

Marguerite’s story is interspersed with the traumatic events, as they unfold, on the streets of Paris after the terrorist attack. Her feelings of uselessness and confusion as to what is happening are in parallel to Kurtiz’ fear for the safety of Lizzie. Where is Lizzie? Where is Oliver?

Two women with very different stories to tell, yet with a thread connecting them in the most unimaginable fashion.

In the back of the book there are suggested reading group discussion points and there is one question that really stands out to me ~ ‘Is there more than one ‘lost girl’ in this story?’ Lizzie, Kurtiz and Marguerite are all looking for something, all in search of themselves, each immersed in their own private battle. Will they find what they are looking for? Is happiness really possible?

From the streets of a modern and terrorised Paris, to the Middle East, a land torn apart by hatred and war, and further back to the rose-tinted days of a time gone by, Carol Drinkwater takes the reader on an engaging journey. I loved Marguerite’s story and I have to admit, that for me, it was Marguerite who stole the show. Kurtiz and Oliver’s story, while full of tragic incidents, didn’t pull at my heart strings as much. Their behaviour in many parts of their lives was petulant and selfish, giving little thought to their daughter. As a reader I felt no great connection with their characters, which, by the way, does not take from the story in anyway. As a reader we do not have to warm to all the different personalities in a novel. They have an important role to play as we are witness to the impact of world events on the ordinary person.

Packed with sharp, and at times brutal, depictions of the lives lived by the different characters, The Lost Girl is a sweeping novel littered throughout with atmospheric imagery.

I think there are many of us lost today in a world that has gone astray!

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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