And our MARCH Book of the Month is... WHAT WAS LOST by Catherine O'Flynn (discussion 31 March 8pm-10pm)

(83 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 21-Feb-09 14:33:27

In a nail-biting finish, What Was Lost beat This Book Will Save Your Life by just one vote!

We'll be chatting about What Was Lost on Tuesday 31 March from 8pm to 10pm. Hope you can join us!

Don't forget you can order your copy here

And, for anyone who missed out on the vote here were March's book choices and this is how Book Club works.

MollieO Sun 22-Feb-09 17:05:14

Will there be a live webchat with this one? I read the book last year and I have some questions!

TomNook Sun 22-Feb-09 17:08:01

Oh i loved it.

foxinsocks Sun 22-Feb-09 17:12:21

yes it was good. Made me laugh out loud on the train some bits.

janeite Sun 22-Feb-09 17:12:33

I've read it and look forward to seeing what others thought of it.

I'll get in touch with the publicist now and see if we can sort a live chat with Catherine O'Flynn. Will keep you posted here...

kingprawnjalfrezi Wed 25-Feb-09 15:32:35

Its cheaper on amazon.

hermykne Thu 26-Feb-09 16:13:01

this book will save your life is a great book, a bit of relief in these pessimistic times. written by a woman but from a mans point of view , very well done,.

The author is sadly away on the week of our discussion night, but we might be able to do an emailed Q&A so note down what you fancy asking...

I'm enjoying very much indeed (makes me hanker after invisible ink and the joys of buying new stationery)

Bookish Wed 04-Mar-09 17:30:58

I thought " What was Lost " was fantastic, especially for a first novel. Really well paced, and I thought her observations about working in retail very accurate and amusing! I hope she has a new one coming soon....

michelle1979 Sat 07-Mar-09 19:38:52

Ive just managed to get a copy of "What was Lost" from the library, it sounds like a really good read. Looking forward to the discussion. Im a real bookworm but dont get much chance to read any more with my 6 month little boy!

Its an excellent read, and very funny. I'm now busily recommending it to everyone who asks me what to read next.

And the best news is that Catherine is happy to do an emailed Q&A, so start thinking about what you'd like to put to her...we'll gather questions at the end of the discussion night and put the answers up the following week.

EachPeachPearMum Thu 12-Mar-09 21:11:18

I really enjoyed most of this book, but I found the ending disappointing.

EachPeach, I agree, I felt a bit deflated on the last 4 pages. Maybe we should dream up alternative endings on Tues 31.

MollieO,TomNook, foxinsocks, janeite: send me any questions you'd like to put to the author (and same goes for anyone else who's finished it). We can gather them all on discussion night.

EachPeachPearMum Fri 13-Mar-09 16:56:00

Can we discuss the ending yet? or do we have to wait until the discussion night?

michelle1979 Fri 13-Mar-09 19:00:25

Please don't discuss the ending yet, ive yet to start reading it! smile What happens on the night, is there a chat room?

We all gather here on this thread and then post frantically whilst trying to eat supper off the keyboard and drink a bottle of wine simultaneously. At least that's what I do.

And we'll hold fire until the night to discuss the ending (and all the other bits...)

See you on Tues 31, 8-10pm.

Polls have opened for APRIL'S BOOK OF THE MONTH - all votes must be in before next Friday 27 March

Evening all

This reminded me a bit of The Lovely Bones but much less saccharine, and more British.

There are so many voices in the book. I thought Kate's diaries were excellent, perfectly pitched and funny. I missed her when she disappeared. The shopping mall voices (like the Anonymous Male or Mystery Shopper) I found a little bit distracting. Lisa and Kurt were both very well drawn and sympathetic. The only person i didn't really believe in was Gavin - too much of an identikit misfit.

Which parts did you think were the most successful?

(and just to remind you, we're sending questions to the author so anything you want to ask, pop it up here tonight)

simnel303 Tue 31-Mar-09 20:07:47

Hi Tilly

I thought Kate's diaries were most successful, I could have read a whole book of them and I really liked Adrian. It was real laugh out loud stuff.

spiderinthebath Tue 31-Mar-09 20:08:24

I agree Tilly, the shopping mall voices was the only bit I found I struggled with - Kate was a fantastic character and Adrian too I thought

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 31-Mar-09 20:08:56

Logging in in the interval of dd's gym and dance show! Looking forward to seeing what everyone else thought of it. I really enjoyed it and I usually hate anything that has any sadness in it. I would like to know where the idea came from, it's such an unusual setting for a story. I'd also like to know if she spent any time with security guards.

I liked the fact that the threads tied together at the end - but of course if I could have had my way the brother would have been cleared just before he died and the little girl would have been discovered in the underground bunker living happily in the wild and reunited with her childhood friends and everyone would live happily ever after, but that's why I'll never be a novellist!

Sorry to butt in early (and hope it's ok to talk about ending now... whoops?) - will catch up with this after the next installment of dance display

spiderinthebath Tue 31-Mar-09 20:10:57

This was the 1st book I have read in bloody ages and it felt so good to have my nose stuck in it (even though on holiday with MIL.....wink )

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 31-Mar-09 20:11:12

... and of course the brother would not then have died.

I loved the record store stuff - reminded me dead end Sat jobs I've done.

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 31-Mar-09 20:12:00

reminded me of.... sorry, hard to concentrate in school hall

Yes I agree with Kate's diaries, I really identified with her as I was 10 in 1984 too. I thought her Dad was agood character, shame there wasn't more of him. Lisa and Kurt were good too as was Teresa Stanton - liked the twist of her story. Was great to read about the 'inside world' of a shopping centre, the author thanks a security guard in the acknowledgements so I guess he helped her out with that story. I agree Gavin was a stereotype weirdo but I didn't guess he had something to do with Kate's death - so sad I too was really hoping she'd be found!

DutchOma Tue 31-Mar-09 20:14:51

I thought all the characters were drawn in a very realistic way and I thoroughly enjoyed the book all the way through.

The question I would want to ask the author is:- How come nobody realises that it is Teresa that turns up to Redspoon when St Joseph's haven't submitted her for the exam?
That does not make sense to me at all. The fact that Kate goes back to the shopping centre and comes to grief there is believable, but the fact that a different little girl turns up at Redspoon is not. How would Teresa know that 'she' had passed the exam. Were no questions asked as to what the girl doing the exam looked like?
Sorry rather a lot of questions.

mummycat1 Tue 31-Mar-09 20:16:15

The little girl's presence worked really well - very haunting.

I, too, wanted her to somehow be alright in the end.

She was such a lonely little girl.

The book said something about how prejudiced we are and how we jump too easily to conclusions about people and situations when we don't really know the truth.

The shopping mall setting was very strong and atmospheric. It made me think of Meadowhall and how some people really do just go there everyday.

It's like a big fake world made of plastic, just feeding us with material junk that we don't really need. Just think about the food halls in those places; everything is served in plastic containers and with plastic knives and forks which are all headed to landfill... scary.

Wheelybug Tue 31-Mar-09 20:18:25

i read this in the days surrounding dd2's birth so not sure what i remember (also typing one handed ).

I thought kate was a great character too. I alsothought itwas refreshingly different and lots of really interesting bits like the fact kurt snr had in fact worked at the mall all along. Was quite bizarre that he;d kept this hidden whilst slating it.

Agree about the lovely bones. Better definitely.

DutchOma Tue 31-Mar-09 20:19:54

The lovely bones is by Audrey Niffenegger? I'm reading the Time Treveller's wife at the moment, that the same author isn't it?

missclovis Tue 31-Mar-09 20:20:45

This was the second time I'd read this and I enjoyed it more. It must have taken a lot of nerve to kill off the most interesting character after about 60 pages, especially when the replacements -- Lisa and Kurt -- are so melancholy. I've read some reviews where people have said this book sags in the middle; I found it meandered a bit with a lot of observations about shopping centre life which delayed the pay off.

Did anyone else pick up on Teresa's stepdad's taste for the hot lemon tea drink Lift, and Gavin drinking 7 Up heated in a microwave with a tea bag in it? Was this a clue/red herring/coincidence?

Wheelybug Tue 31-Mar-09 20:21:26

no somewone else Dutchoma ... name escapes me at mo.

janeite Tue 31-Mar-09 20:21:54

The first 40 pages or so were absolutely brilliant, some of the best writing I've read in a long time (and I read A LOT!). The voice of Kate was so strong and so well developed and so credible and she really just pulled me in and intrigued me. I wanted to read more of her diary extracts as they were funny and touching and clever and true all at once - really, really impressive.

Unfortunately much of the rest of it left me cold. The little scenes in the shops, although quite amusing, felt like padding. The ending was silly and anti-climatic and overly convenient.

It would have been much better as a short story.

Will deffo read her next one though to see what direction this obviously talented
writer might go in next.

mollythetortoise Tue 31-Mar-09 20:24:01

i loved it too. i laughed out loud quite alot especially at Kate's view on the criminal intent of some of her neighbour and the shoppers. I didn't want to leave her story either. I thought the shopping centre bits were very accurate. the zombie shoppers.. Green oaks reminded me of Brent Cross. I enjoyed Dan's rants in Your music. I suspect alot of old school music store employees are like him. I was pleased that it didn't end up being a peadophile killer as I thought it was heading that way. But i did think ending slightly wierd and sad for kate and would gavin really be that keen for the shopping centre to be successful that he would allow a child to die for it? I'm not sure. Are there really entombed children all over europe?? Did people really think that brought prosperity. I couldn't get the image of a crying child being given an apple when entombing her out of my mind afterwards. Actually, could you ask Catherine, if that story is true? Overall, a great read and very enjoyable book.

spursmummy Tue 31-Mar-09 20:24:14

I really liked it and read it in two days flat, despite working full-time and having dd and dh to look after!. She really captured the melancholy of shopping centres well (I don't mind some of them, but they are pretty soulless).

I just wish I'd been a bit more disciplined and not read it so early in the month, as I've not had a chance to re-read it since and can't remember all the little details that I really liked!

DutchOma I think Kate got away with pretending to be Teresa at the exam because she hadn't been pre-registered and no one there would no who she was. However I don't understand why Teresa didn't own up that this happened so Adrian didn't get the blame for Kate's disappearance - especially when she was the DCI!

I liked the description of the music store job, although funny I thought at times that it had a slight echo of bitterness from the author's personal experience. It was a bit too cutting.

Nearly missed tonight! I liked this book - loved the spot on stuff about being a child in the 80s. But I thought the ending felt a bit contrived

The shopping centre does have a massive presence, that soulless feeling you get from those industrial landscapes. The fact that everyone is changed by it. I think the weirdest part is that it is full of bored people who are then being watched by other bored people on CCTV screens.

DutchOma, I thought that plot twist about the entrance exam was quit tricky too. I guess Kate put her address on it, and as there was no face to face interview, they wouldn't know who was who?

Record store stuff was brilliant, I agree. The author worked in a music store - you can tell it is authentic research, can't you, the descriptions of customers are spot on.

I watched an interview with the author and she said the security guard told her a story about spotting a girl on the TV cameras who they never found. She got obsessed by it and started to think of what happened.

There is so much loss in the book, everyone has lost someone. And the shopping centre seemed to sum up that loss most of all - that we've all lost our way. If I had to choose one word to describe the book it would be poignant.

the lovely bones is by alice sebold

simnel303 Tue 31-Mar-09 20:33:26

I agree that the evocation of the mall was very good, though I'm not sure I understood the miles of service corridors - do these places really have miles of corridors? I was also a child in the 80s, well teenager, so a lot did seem familiar.

missclovis I missed the lemon drink references, well spotted. Or could it be that Lift and 7Up were practically the only drinks available back then? grin

DutchOma, forgot to add, Lovely Bones is by Alice Sebold.

missclovis, you are a born detective - I never picked up on that clue. Like Kate, we should know better than to believe in coincidences...

The ending was definitely problematic. Perhaps it was because Kate was a ghost by that stage, and any explanation of her death feels like an awkward back-paddling?

Did anyone else get shivers down their spine when Kurt spots Kate on CCTV? That bit was really well done I thought - very creepy! Tillybookclub I agree with the sense of loss and that makes the Lisa-Kurt romance more welcome because something positive has come out of the story.

I was really hoping Kate would be found as a slightly mad, wild-haired semi-feral woman stalking the service corridors!

simnel303 Tue 31-Mar-09 20:41:22

I did not like the ending at all and read the last pages with disbelief. I felt like crying when Catherine described Kate's little foot hovering on the ladder and she fell. So even though pretty unbelieveable, still emotional.

simnel303 Tue 31-Mar-09 20:42:54

I too was glad of something positive ie the romance especially as both my favourite characters died

Do we think Adrian killed himself because he couldn't face being a suspect on the run? Or because he was traumatised by Kate's disappearance? I wondered why he didn't fight harder to plead his innocence, especially if Theresa was on his side.

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 31-Mar-09 20:47:36

Hi everyone <rushes in late>

I loved reading this book but was overcome with melacholy once I'd finished it.

Thinking about it and all the people in it who'd had such dreams and then seen them all come to nothing made me very sad.

DutchOma Tue 31-Mar-09 20:48:38

I still don't buy it.
So Kate sits the exam and puts Teresa's name on it. No doubt she does brilliantly, Redspoon sends a message to St Joseh's saying "Teresa has gained a place at Redspoon". What?? says St Joseph's, we didn't put Teresa in, it was Kate Meany, who has disappeared. No questions are asked, Adrian gets charged with her disappearance and so on. It is so, so unlikely, even given the chaos surrounding the exam at Redspoon.

I think Adrian killed himself because for as long as Kate's death was unsolved he'd be branded a child killer and pervert and be vulnerable to vigilantes if he lived locally. But you could tell he really wanted to come home when he turned up in his Dad's shop, so sad. Added to that he must have been very upset at Kate's disappearance too. I can understand why he did it but I was sad he died too.

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 31-Mar-09 20:51:28

DutchOma: I don't think the school was involved in sending Kate to the exam. It was her Granny, wasn't it?
So they must have sent the letter offering the place to the child's home...

DutchOma Tue 31-Mar-09 20:55:56

So Kate puts Teresa's address on it? Even though Teresa has always been very cagey about her home environment? And just manages to get all the uniform together for a private school and nobody notices?
Did she herself not ask questions, knowing that Kate had disappeared and she knew that she had not sat that exam?
I realise that at that time she was a ten year old girl and not a Detective Inspector, but still...

My perfect ending:

Adrian comes back and his father tucks him away in the shop until the mystery is solved by...

Kurt and Lisa who go on an hunt to the bottom corridors of Green Oaks and find...

Kate who has inadvertently been cyrogenically frozen in giant air conditioning unit and is rushed off to hosptial to be unfrozen and where she wakes up to find...

it is no longer the 80s but her Bananarama style hairstyle is luckily the height of 2009 fashion

simnel303 Tue 31-Mar-09 20:59:33

I think Adrian wanted back into his family and old town/life but he thought he'd never be able to clear his name. I'm not sure where he's been in the interval between Kate's disappearance but it cant have been much of a life. I wonder what would have happened to him if his dad had spoken to him in the shop. That scene reminded me of how often in life there are moments when we do or dont do something that has lasting repercussions.

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 31-Mar-09 21:01:14

lol Tilly.

What would happen to Gavin, then?

DutchOma Tue 31-Mar-09 21:03:17

My ending would be that she felt she couldn't go home to her Granny, but went with Adrian to live in Brighton under an assumed name, posing as his sister. Adrian earns a living for the two of them until Kate is old enough to go to work as a waitress.
They have a baby and post on MN every day and lives happily ever after.
Not much of a story, certainly not a spine chilling ghost story.

simnel303 Tue 31-Mar-09 21:06:43

dutchoma I love that ending, I demand a rewrite, we need her Brighton diaries!

DutchOma Tue 31-Mar-09 21:07:51

Her MN username could be MeanKatie

My ending: Adrian sits the exam and goes to Redspoon disguised as a girl, no one discovers who he is until Kate is found working in Clare's Accessories. Lisa burns down the record shop (at night, no one hurt) and elopes with Kurt to a chilled out island off Thailand.

spiderinthebath Tue 31-Mar-09 21:11:45

Lisa and Kurt give me goosebumps in a bad way...

Any more questions for Catherine, by the way? I'm going to email them to her tomorrow and then post up the whole Q&A as soon as she emails her answers back...

My question would be: do you believe shopping centres are truly awful or are you actually quite nostalgic for/attached to them?

(cf. Adrian's comment that the countryside is dreadful and boring as there are no shops, 'just Spars that look like shops but don't sell anything except maybe some swede and a packet of custard creams'.)

simnel303 Tue 31-Mar-09 21:13:36

Gavin works his way up from security guard to Green Oaks CEO and makes all staff tour the service corridors at the Christmas do singing the Green Oaks appreciation song.

Qu for Catherine: what gave her the inspiration for Kate's detective agency? Was it something she did as a child and did she actually come across a book like the one Kate's dad gave her?

simnel303 Tue 31-Mar-09 21:21:31

Green Oaks actually reminded me of the Arndale Centre in Manchester where I spent many a bored hour as a student - I was inexplicably drawn there although I had no money to spend - maybe because there were other people to watch ,nothing else to do and it was raining outside. Did give me the creeps though.

missclovis Tue 31-Mar-09 21:26:41

Please can we ask Catherine:
Was Teresa's stepdad's liking for the hot lemon tea drink Lift and Gavin's drinking of 7Up heated up in a microwave with a tea bag dipped in it, a clue/red herring/coincidence? I need to know.

I remember first going to a shopping centre in Peterborough, aged 13 and it was like I'd entered nirvana. This book brought it all back, especially when she mentions Dolcis.

Also remember being a detective and lugging around a vast faux-leather executive briefcase with combination locks, inside which were numerous files on my sisters activities. Wish I had kept it.

I think that's partly what I loved about this book - a huge sense of recognition, whilst also being intrigued and not having a clue how it would all end.

simnel303 Tue 31-Mar-09 21:32:33

I was also a detective when I was about 10, hiding in the bushes of my parents house writing notes on the comings and goings, I even had a broken camera in my satchel. Perhaps Catherine did this too?

missclovis Tue 31-Mar-09 21:39:10

I was one too. We had a secret club. I can remember being in a group of giggling 10-year-old girls following innocent members of the public who, we had decided, looked "suspicious". Also, deciding that an empty house across the field from school was haunted and spending all play time starring at it.Then everyone planning to climb out of their bedroom windows at night to go an investigate -- except nobody turned up.

Can't say I was a detective but I did have an obsession with neighbours' car registrations and used to write them down and then look out for them when out and about. Not sure why!

I've got to go and attend to a sobbing babe upstairs, but anyone else with a question for the author do post here and I'll compile them all tomorrow.

Thanks everyone - I was so pleased to have discovered this book.

Looking forward to April's chat already - Middlesex is an incredible read. See you on April 28.

EachPeachPearMum Tue 31-Mar-09 21:50:09

Oh! Can't believe I missed this... DS has been fussy all evening sad

I was saddened by the ending- it seemed like such an odd set-up.... what would he have done if she hadn't taken his bait and fallen down the hole? How would he have entombed her then?

JudithChalmers Tue 31-Mar-09 21:51:33

my dh used to pronounce it "Dolchis" as if it were Italiano.

simnel303 Tue 31-Mar-09 21:52:42

yes, the end wasn't quite right was it. Perhaps Catherine could tell us what alternative endings she had considered before deciding on the one in the book?

simnel303 Tue 31-Mar-09 21:53:24

la dolchis feeta!

JudithChalmers Tue 31-Mar-09 21:55:51

I cant remember now what the end was tbh.
I could onyl think of merry hill

Sorry meant to join in but have been busy. I would have liked more physical description of the characters, i felt i couldn't picture them at all, especially lisa. I also thought the pace would have been better if she had jumped back and forth in time more, it was i bit slow. Otherwise i loved it.

I meant to join in too - a message for Catherine - Toby S says hello from the High St days.(It's his missus BTW) Read the book last year and loved it, as did T - in fact it's the only book I've known him finish in 9 years!

UnquietDad Tue 31-Mar-09 23:43:02

Missed the chat, but I did want to say how much I really enjoyed this book. I read it last year. Very well done - one of the best first novels I have read in the last decade. Looking forward to Catherine's second.

I wonder if she is really annoyed that her original publishers gave her such an AWFUL cover? here

This one - not sure if it's a reprint or an overseas edition - is much better here. Spooky hints of blurry figures on CCTV in a book about a lost child - I think we all know what that evokes...

EachPeachPearMum Tue 31-Mar-09 23:47:13

I liked the original cover actually... much more than the second, which is too stark I think IYSWIM

janeite Wed 01-Apr-09 19:09:39

I don't like either of the covers!

The first one is ugly and unhelpful; the second looks like a cheesy thriller imho.

Molesworth Tue 07-Apr-09 00:33:09

I also thought it was one of the best novels I've read in the last few years. The first part of the book was brilliant not only for its humour (I laughed out loud on page 1), but also for the way it makes the reader love Kate, which then creates a real sense of loss throughout the rest of the book. Funny, sad, atmospheric, original. I'm also looking forward to reading the author's next book.

DutchOma Tue 28-Apr-09 08:48:07

Tillybokclub, Did we ever get any answers to our questions from Catherine O'Flynn?

DutchOma Tue 28-Apr-09 08:48:35

Tiillybookclub, obviously

EachPeachPearMum Sat 02-May-09 21:37:37

Here DutchOma! (hows that new little GC doing then?)

DutchOma Sun 03-May-09 15:01:00

Thanks EPPM. I was a bit disappointed that my question didn't get answered, probably because I didn't ask it in the right 'format'. Never mind.
Dgd is doing fine, I have made her a dress to go to her first wedding in, she was very unimpressed when we tried it on, hope she doesn't cry all during the reception. She looks a real poppet in it though.

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