From the headland, we look across to the lighthouse on Seal Island where Mr Hammett has to take the gas bottle to keep the light flashing at night. Aunt Cele says there is no land between us and the bottom of the world where everything is white ice and there are penguins as big as men, but I know this already because Dunc has told me.
Sylvie is five. It’s the 1950s and she lives in Burley Point, a fishing village south of the Coorong on Australia’s wild southern coast. She worships her older brother Dunc. She tries to make sense of her brooding mother, and her moody father who abandons the family to visit The Trollop, Layle Lewis, who lives across the lagoon.
It’s hard to keep secrets in a small town, but when Dunc goes missing, Sylvie is terrified that she is the cause. Now her father is angry all the time; her mother won’t leave the house or stop cleaning. The bush and the birds and the endless beach are Sylvie’s only salvation, apart from her teacher, Miss Taylor.
In the tradition of the novels of Anne Tyler and Eudora Welty, The Lost Child is a beautifully written story about family and identity and growing up. Sylvie is a charming narrator with a big heart and a sharp eye for the comic moment. As the years go by she learns how tiny events can changes entire lives, and how leaving might be the only solution when the world will never be the same again.
‘The Lost Child is an assured and bittersweet coming-of-age tale with a vivid sense of time and place…The novel is a strong addition to the shelves of Australian literary fiction.'
‘Written in beautiful, slow prose…This is a promising debut…You can’t help but be keen to see what she does next.’
‘McCourt’s writing is assured and sinuous.’
‘Suzanne McCourt has with great empathy and skill created the turmoil in the mind of a little girl…a haunting story, it also demonstrates the power of the human psyche to overcome past difficulties and find was to fully live.‘
‘There are echoes of Tim Winton in McCourt’s coastal small-town coming-of-age/breaking of spirit/triumphing over the odds under a wide sky-style writing…plainspoken but deftly crafted, laced with both humour and searing sadness. Highly recommended.’
‘There’s a watchful intensity to McCourt’s writing, a remarkable ability to discover within the most concrete details a rich and raw emotion…a novel that is at once very familiar and entirely fresh.’
‘[The Lost Child] reminds me of the quality of Ruth Park’s writing in evoking the strengths and weaknesses of a small community…and the tragedies and humour amongst the everyday…A multi-layered novel with symbolism which stays with you after the last page. A significant writer with compassion. Highly recommended for adult and YA readers.’
‘This book’s simple-seeming title gets more complex as it becomes apparent that there is more than one candidate for the role, and that “lost” can mean different things…the story is set south of the Coorong and that dramatic and sometimes eerie landscape is evoked with clarity and tenderness.’
‘A wonderful first novel…gripping and at times heart wrenching…will keep you turning the pages.’
‘Debut novelist McCourt steers clear of feyness to produce an account that is notable for its freshness, vividly drawn characters and atmospheric setting…McCourt’s is a name to note.’
‘The Lost Child is a haunting tale of family life, identity and coming-of-age from an author who writes with a vivid sense of time and place.’