The Lost Child
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 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.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
Continuing the Caribbean tradition of responding to the English literary canon, Phillips presents a multifaceted, deeply original companion piece to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. With examinations of alienation, orphanhood and family dislocation, the novel opens and closes with a re-imagined origin story of Heathcliff, mirrors Bronte’s life in her latter years and opens a window into the life of an outcast, giving the reader insight into what it is to be part of but still separate.
Phillips’ novel deals with themes such as origins, belonging and social exclusion and intertwines the story of Wuthering Heights with 20th century English life. Many blank spaces in Monica’s, the 20th century heroine, life are never filled. However, by opposing Monica’s (and her son Ben’s) experiences to the story of the main protagonists of Wuthering Heights ultimately untellable emotions and experiences are being made visible. A startling tale that is strangely moving.