My enormous thanks to Sophie Christopher at Penguin Random House for an advanced reader copy of The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace in return for an honest review. The Finding of Martha Lost is published by Doubleday, an imprint of Transworld Books, on 10th March 2016 and is available from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Waterstones where it is their Book of the Month, and Penguin.
The Finding of Martha Lost
Martha is lost. She’s been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she’s waited in station lost property for someone to claim her. It’s been sixteen years, but she’s still hopeful. In the meantime, there are mysteries to solve: secret tunnels under the station, a suitcase that may have belonged to the Beatles, the roman soldier who appears at the same time every day with his packed lunch. Not to mention the stuffed monkey that someone keeps misplacing. But there is one mystery Martha cannot solve. And now the authorities have found out about the girl in lost property. Time is running out – if Martha can’t discover who she really is, she will lose everything…
My Review of The Finding of Martha Lost
Martha is a foundling who’s never left Lime Street Station in Liverpool, where she lives and works with Mother in the lost property office. She is the Liver Bird of Lime Street. But in the heatwave of 1976, Martha’s life is going to change.
The Finding of Martha Lost is utterly astounding. It’s a book that’s almost impossible to review because it is so fantastic.
Martha is completely compelling. From the moment she speaks to the reader in the opening sentence of the book there is an endearing breathlessness to her wonderful personality, even in the face of adversity. Martha is simultaneously innocent and wise in a glorious creation. Quite how Caroline Wallace has created such a fabulous character is difficult to define. It’s partly because Martha suffers at the hands of Mother, the woman who has brought her up, partly because she spins instead of walks taking me back to the feelings of uninhibited pleasure in my own childhood, partly because Martha has magic in her fingers, partly because she has such an affinity with books. But Martha is so much more than the sum of her parts. I didn’t just love her, I wanted to be her. If the world were filled with Marthas it would be a better place. Reading about her has restored my faith in humankind. I’ve ended up reading The Finding of Martha Lost by being rather in love with George too.
At the risk of sounding pretentious, I think what makes The Finding of Martha Lost such a perfect book is that it has all the hallmarks of classical Greek drama. There’s the unity of time in 1976, the unity of place in Lime Street Station and the unity of action as Martha tries to find out who she really is. There’s such a satisfying unity of theme too; it’s not just Martha who is lost. My heart went out to William, living in the shadows, to Elisabeth searching for her own happiness and even to the monstrous Mother in her misguided manner of looking for faith. The items in the lost property come alive under Martha’s fingers so we have more loss and sub-text giving layer upon layer of interest as Martha understands the stories behind the items. I loved the echoes of and references to writing and fairy tales too. This is very fine writing indeed.
All the characters are so beautifully defined so that it felt as if I were reading about people I knew. Even the heat of the summer becomes a character in its own right. The Finding of Martha Lost called to me when I wasn’t reading it and I put the day on hold to finish it, so hypnotic was the writing and so vivid the descriptions. Caroline Wallace evokes the era so well. The music and fashions, the Beatles hangover and the story of Mal Evans serve to weave a spellbinding tale. There’s a lightness of touch so that a single word of prose or a brief exclamation from the characters can convey huge emotion or move on the plot with enormous impact.
Martha thinks ‘Books are magical’ and this one certainly is. I laughed aloud frequently. I sobbed a couple of times. It’s taken me much soul searching to decide ultimately what I feel about reading The Finding of Martha Lost and, because so many things Martha says resonate in my heart, in the end I’ve decided on one word – joy.
Now I’m off to arrange all my books by the colours of their spines!
You can follow Caroline Wallace on Twitter and I really think you should.