A number of years ago, a new trend in writing rose from some cursed tar pit filled with flawlessly cleansed ancient skeletons. So, writers tore all the meat off the bones of their novels leaving readers to fill in the deleted information with their own imaginations, leaving readers to do most of the work of creating new worlds. One can picture hungry readers stranded in some distorted, Dali dessert, starving, scratching through the sand like paleontologists searching for sustenance from scraps of information left on bleached bones. Serious readers are thankful that some writers resist this trend and strive to nourish them with linguistic banquets of color, texture, and imagery.
Lost Boys by Allie Cresswell is an anachronism. It harkens back to a style that was prevalent in the way-back, before the “bleached bones” style rose from the depths, when reading was a feast for the senses. Therefore, Lost Boys at 190,000 words may not be a good choice for harried or lazy readers. This fact might make it a hard sell, but true artists would rather go hungry than cannibalize their creations. Luckily, some writers do indeed possess the courage to reject the current literary zeitgeist to find publishing success. Lost Boys is reminiscent of the style of Graham Swift ( A Booker Prize winner.) in Waterland. Perhaps some day, Lost Boys will also rise to great success.
Cresswell’s style is extremely literary. She has a firm hold on her vision and does not skimp on sharing it via a skilled manipulation of a vast, evocative vocabulary. Readers will find themselves immersed in the setting, able to visualize every element of the location as well as the many characters who participate in the mystery of synchronicity that reveals the workings of fate. The novel certainly qualifies as a child of postmodernism. Since four separate stories intertwine in a non-linear fashion, the reader must take care not to lose his bearings. In addition, the text is self-conscious, and sections communicate with each other.
The setting, a semi-rural area in Great Britain, circles around a mire that is symbolic of sinking, disappearance, and loss. It haunts and possesses all the events and characters in the novel. Torrential rains and scorching heat direct much of the action. At times, madness erupts.
The characters are real–down to earth, unvarnished, flawed, and self-aware. For the most part, they are willing to own their shortcomings, and even more interesting, they are willing to address them. Given the number of characters, just about every reader will find one with whom to connect, a character to mirror his own faults and fears.
The plot consists of four complicated tales that at first seem discrete. Nevertheless, before long, readers will find that all the stories interconnect in a myriad of surprising ways. One will also soon see a pattern–strong women and weak or troubled boys/men. Not all of them, but enough to make a point. Saying much more would spoil the journey for future readers.
As for nits, there are few. The use of language can be intoxicating. At times, the author becomes a bit tipsy and overdoes the descriptions, even to the point of self-contradiction. A touch of cutting here and there would easily clean that up. In addition, a couple of loose ends could be more securely tied for a more satisfying conclusion.
Lost Boys is a great addition to the indie arsenal, thus adding gravitas to the movement.