I must confess to having bought into the hype of this book a little. I hadn’t heard of it at all, and then in a flash it was on Australian Story, and every bookshop, and in my emails, and every other place a book might be. So I read the first chapter on Hachette’s website and thought yes, this is the book for me, and ran (drove) out and bought it.
The reason for my lead foot was that in just that one chapter (just one page, frankly), the observations were incomparably astute. And it was Davis’s description of Karl the Touch Typist as having a “tree-bark face” that really got my heart going — and rightly so, because the book is filled with these delightful metaphoric descriptors (a not-secret love I share). It’s hard to say whether Brooke Davis and I have just been sitting in the same food court corners, but I nodded to so many of them. They are simultaneously wry, cynical, hopeful and truthful.
I imagine this book will be compared to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81 and probably more than one story about a man climbing out a window. It has the same cadence, a kind of whimsical-but-touching observation about people in the various stages of their lives. Told through the eyes of three same-same-but-different characters — Millie Bird, Karl the Touch Typist and Agatha Pantha — this is a story that’s functionally about finding Millie’s mother, but is really, truly about love and family and How to Know When You’re on to a Good Thing.
Davis wrote this book as part of a PhD candidacy, which seems to be a thing people are doing, maybe getting in before no one can afford to ever again? It does show, in places. It is meticulously scripted, by which I mean I could believe that this book was a novelisation of a movie version. Every scene plays into the hand of the next. Every character is cleverly created — as though with actual flesh and bones and neurons — to be unique and compelling.
On the whole, I liked it a lot. I read it in about four hours, at the expense of doing a great many other things. It is quick and easy and pretty good fun. As the cover promises, I did laugh, and I did cry. This is a big deal; I haven’t cried while reading since maybe Watership Down, when I was 12, and that was only because my dad was cruelly playing Bright Eyes in the next room. Davis has created some profoundly, even catastrophically moving passages.
My only complaint is that, for me, it got too silly towards the end. Too absurd, too quirky. Caught up in its own voice. I was endeared to these characters without question, but there were times when Millie’s childish sentiment carried across to Karl and Agatha, in a way that pushed it into nonsense. In some places it is cartoon-like, often at the expense of Davis’s beautiful threads of wisdom and insight.
But this is a minor quibble. Davis’s Lost and Found is, indisputably, soon to be labelled “heart-warming” and “charming” on blogs everywhere.