I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Caryl Phillips's The Lost Child is a sweeping story of orphans and outcasts, haunted by the past and fighting to liberate themselves from it. At its center is Monica Johnson—cut off from her parents after falling in love with a foreigner—and her bitter struggle to raise her sons in the shadow of the wild moors of the north of England. Phillips intertwines her modern narrative with the childhood of one of literature's most enigmatic lost boys, as he deftly conjures young Heathcliff, the anti-hero of Wuthering Heights, and his ragged existence before Mr. Earnshaw brought him home to his family.
The Lost Child is a multifaceted, deeply original response to Emily Bronte's masterpiece, Wuthering Heights. A critically acclaimed and sublimely talented storyteller, Caryl Phillips is "in a league with Toni Morrison and V. S. Naipaul" (Booklist) and "his novels have a way of growing on you, staying with you long after you've closed the book." (The New York Times Book Review) A true literary feat, The Lost Child recovers the mysteries of the past to illuminate the predicaments of the present, getting at the heart of alienation, exile, and family by transforming a classic into a profound story that is singularly its own.
Lost boys. And I’m not talking vampires or Peter Pan, but truly lost children.
An interesting book to read beside and following Lullabies for Little Criminals. Both books examine the situation of the child from an unprivileged upbringing, but I found that LfLC left me with a more hopeful feeling.
This book was Bronte inspired—there are chapters re-imagining the situation of Heathcliff and there is one chapter devoted to Emily and Charlotte. It examines hardship from three directions, really. The hardship of the poor clergyman’s children, struggling to make ends meet and survive on the moors. (By all accounts, the Bronte daughters despised teaching children, the only option besides writing that was available to them). Their brother, Branwell, is depicted as lost in alcoholism and ill health.
Then there is the story of Monica and her two sons, Ben and Tommy. This is the meat of the book, as an increasingly erratic and alcoholic mother loses her sons even while she is living with them (one literally, one emotionally). Their father, from some unnamed Caribbean country, leaves them only their mixed-racial heritage and some talent for football and is also a “lost boy” in some regards.
Combining the two are the chapters featuring Heathcliff, the abandoned child—also with dark skin & hair, rejected for his ethnicity. Mistreated by the family he is adopted into after his sponsor’s death, just as Ben and Tommy are bullied by the fortunate children in school. Emily’s obsession, even as she sinks away towards her death.
This novel is dark and brooding as the moors that Wuthering Heights is famous for. And although there seems to be some prospect of escape for those who remain, the survivors are few.