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Wednesday, 24 April 2019

‘What Was Lost’ by Jean Levy


Published by The Dome Press,
13 September 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-99985596-3

Sarah has – some would say very conveniently - lost her memory.  Or, to be more specific, the part of it that deals with the day that her husband either fell or was pushed down the stairs and ended up in hospital where he died of an infection five weeks later.  It was also the same day that her younger sister, Arachne, who hated Sarah, ran out of the same house where Sarah’s husband had tumbled/ fallen / been pushed down the stairs, which just happened to be the house where Arachne, lived with their mother.  Arachne was stark naked and ran in front of a large lorry that not surprisingly killed her stone dead.  Two days later, so Sarah has been told, she was found unconscious many miles away at the edge of the sea with a broken arm.  Of course, she had no idea of how she got there as she lived in London. Sarah has either wiped the memory of what happened on that day and what, if any, her involvement was in the dramatic events that occurred, or alternatively her mind is determined that she will never retrieve the memories and is deliberately suppressing them.  Either way nobody knows exactly what happened or how to restore her memories.  Her mother can’t help because she has advanced dementia.

Sarah wants to discover what happened because she needs to know if she did something bad.  The police want to know what happened because they suspect Sarah has done something bad.  And the medics want to be involved because her type of memory loss is, for reasons that are difficult for a lay person to understand, highly unusual and they are keen to understand and document its progress whether it be forwards or regressive.

To begin with Sarah’s treatment is to isolate her from all her familiar possessions and those few people whom she liked or who have loved her.  Thankfully the story gets more humane when the gorgeous Mathew decides enough is enough.  He introduces himself to Sarah by rolling an apple towards her in the supermarket. Then he invites her to go for a coffee without revealing his previous role in her life.  Sarah falls for Mathew completely – most people would.  Without the agreement of the “experts” Mathew reintroduces her to others.  In this way we meet her best friend Poppy, her editor – yes Sarah was a writer of children’s books - and other office staff from her past life. 

Eventually the “treatment tricks” somehow allow Sarah to view what happened in the house that dreadful day as though she was an outsider.  Although she still can’t actually remember what happened, she recounts what she saw and, with the exception of how she got to the seaside, manages to explain most things to everyone’s satisfaction.  Much to everybody’s joy that seems to be the end of it. But is it?

This is an intriguing story that keeps one guessing as it eases its way to the finale as sections of the tale from the past are interspersed with what is currently happening. There are several long sessions with a multiplicity of physicians and hangers on and much clinical jargon for those who can understand it.  On the whole, with one, or possibly two, notable exceptions, one is led to believe that the girl would have been better left to her own devices. Sarah is an unusual heroine and she will generate varying degrees of sympathy in different readers depending on how reliable a witness they believe her to be.

What Was Lost is a cleverly written book that will be enjoyed by those who are interested in the games that the mind plays, and the wonderfully manipulative abilities of those who write about them. It is also a book that you will be compelled to read to the very last page.
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Reviewer Angela Crowther

Jean Levy has worked in genetics research, the pharmaceutical industry and in academic publishing. She is currently completing a doctorate in Linguistics. She studied Creative Writing at the University of Sussex and lives with her husband in the South Downs. This is her first novel.

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

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