Quite a turn out for the books for our literary group last week: it’s not often we are graced by the presence of a published author, and this time around it was a “double whammy”, as Brooke Davis came together with her literary agent Thomasin, who is based in Brussels.
Brooke hails from Australia, but after the whirlwind success of her first novel, she has been galloping around Europe and attending books signings and interviews left, right and centre, so we were jolly pleased to have her in our midst for a few chatty hours.
It was actually only after the evening that I did a spot of stalking to read a little more about the authoress, largely because I was so surprised to learn that Brooke is actually in her thirties.
On first sight, she appears to be in her early twenties (oh to be mistaken for a forty year old this end), and she was wearing stripy tights and an elfin look that decidedly conjured up her 7 year old heroine Millie Bird. We did touch upon the personal tragedy that had been the backbone for a book that turned out to be six long years in the writing, but I had not realised that the loss of Brooke’s mother was caused by a freak accident that must have left more questions than answers during the lengthy grieving process. This background info wasn’t included in my copy, and I rather wish it had been, for the reviews I have since perused by readers who had been given these details had a very different outlook with their subsequent reading of the story.
That the author is no rush to write another book and capitalise on the bestseller’s lists she has found herself joining is quite telling, I think. There is very much a sense of awareness of carpe diem as a philosophy here, as well as a delight in revelling in the chart-busting she most certainly didn’t see coming until it was upon her. To a degree, real life is a bit like this read – there is something surreal and almost fairytale about it all.
“Lost & Found” is nothing if not quirky. That’s the word that seems to come up as a constant. It is by turn whimsical, poignant, darkly humorous and always slightly unbelievable. Above all, it is a book that is just dripping with a sensation of unbridled optimism. I did think more than fleetingly about the ancient Swedish man jumping out of his window and British Harold trailing his moccasins along those windy never-ending roads as I read, so for me this story joined the realms of books with a hint of magic realism about them (I am mixing my genres, I do realise). I do struggle with situations depicting real life but unrealistic happenings, so just as with “The Master and Margarita” and other gems that overly stretch the imagination, I found myself thinking on occasion “that wouldn’t have happened like that”, and I think it is key to not bother about the (im)probability of the plot. Far more interesting to just go with the flow and enjoy the quirkiness to the full.
I think Millie, Karl and Agatha (Pantha) are going to divide the crowds – some will be bowled over by the heart-rending dilemma the child has to deal with and be delighted with the quirky – see, just said it again – style and ultimately feel-good messages, including the unlikely prospect of amour at an advanced age; others will be dampened by the over-the-top wackiness and zany oddness and risk disappointment as the novel draws to its conclusion.
I fell firmly on my bottom between the two camps. One thing is for certain: each of us to a (wo)man was absolutely entranced by Brooke on the night: she was warm, engaging, unassuming, quietly delighted by her success, and extremely articulate – in short, she bowled every single one of us over, and I am going to re-read “L&F” in a few months from a different standpoint. I hope she will decide to pick up her pen again in the not too distant, for I feel sure there is much more to come and will be watching with what I confess feels very much like maternal interest from afar. May the magic long continue….
Rating : 7/10
Winner of the General Fiction Book of the Year and Matt Richell New Writer of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards 2015. Shortlisted for the Indie Book Awards Debut Fiction for 2015.