The Lost Life
Fourth Estate, $29.99 pb, 244 pp
Midway through Steven Carroll’s beautiful and sombre novel The Lost Life, Emily Hale gives Catherine a pair of French stockings which she has decided she cannot herself wear. To Catherine, who is eighteen, ‘The thought of Miss Hale even buying them, let alone contemplating wearing them, is intriguing, for it opens up the possibility that there may be another side, many other sides, to Miss Hale altogether.’ One of the feats of Carroll’s storytelling is his capacity relentlessly but gently to prod his characters’ inner complexities – their many other sides. Somehow he slows time almost to a standstill, leaving the past and the future pressed hard up against elongated snapshots of the present. He hones in on incidents which often seem quite ordinary, transforming them into monuments to life’s ups and downs. It should be boring, but it’s thrilling.