I have saluted the UK publishers Joffe here before for the sterling work they have been doing in lockdown to provide very affordable good quality commercial fiction. This new publication which they invited me to review is the fourth novel by Susanna Beard.
It begins in the summer of 1987 when it is decided that 12 year old Ricky should, in the New Year, attend the same boarding school as his father did – in South Africa. This fills Ricky with horror, he does not want to leave the UK and does not feel he is the right sort of person for boarding school but is particularly unhappy because of his close relationship with his 10 year old sister Leonora, and the thought of leaving her with his cold, cruel father and emotionally distant mother. No amount of cajoling on the children’s part can stop the inevitable and once Ricky has left their father is determined to drive as big a wedge as possible between the boy and Leonora.
This novel is about the damage families can do to one another alongside the lasting bond of a positive sibling relationship. Characterisation is solid and the sense of desolation endured by the separated pair is conveyed very effectively. Leonora has always experienced synaesthesia, in her case letters are represented by colours, which is an unusual device on the part of the author but one which I wish had been made more of as it feels slightly under-realised.
The plot is always involving. As the years pass the brother and sister are unable to forget how much they mean to one another as circumstances continue, through twists, to keep them apart. Although I did not feel the ending was as “electrifying” as the cover suggests it all added up to a very satisfactory reading experience.
The Lost Brother is published on 11th February 2021 by Joffe Books. Many thanks to the publishers for the advance review copy.