BOOK REVIEW: VALERIA LUISELLI – LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE & MORE BOOKER PRIZE CHAT

Today, it’s a review of one of the long-listed books for the Booker Prize 2019 – Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli and also talking more about the Booker Prize as the shortlist is announced tomorrow at 10am (BST)…

Let’s first talk about the Booker Prize as the shortlist is announced tomorrow! This is the first year that I really got invested in the prize and I wanted to read as many books as I could. Before the long-list was revealed, I read three: Lanny, Frankissstein and My Sister, The Serial Killer. I thought the long-list was a good list – obviously very different from last year’s – this feels a bit more heavy with big literary heroes with previous nominees and previous winners whereas last year we had more debuts. As soon as I saw the list, I ordered a couple of books that caught my eye. I’ve read: 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak, Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry, The Wall by John Lanchester, The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy and Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli. I’ve enjoyed more than others – I wasn’t a fan of The Wall and My Sister, The Serial Killer but over all, I think it’s a good list. I’ve got Ducks, Newbury Port but still haven’t started it! I pre-ordered Salman Rushdie’s Quichotte but haven’t started it yet and almost finished Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo which I’m really enjoying and I haven’t got round to getting/reading An Orchestra of Minorities. So, what’s my shortlist?

Honestly, it keeps changing… but this is my shortlist: Lanny by Max Porter, The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy, Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo and I think Ducks, Newbury Port by Lucy Ellman might be on there too. But who knows? I’m still changing my mind but I’m rooting for Lanny and The Man Who Saw Everything… but all shall be revealed tomorrow and I can’t wait!

But now, let’s focus on the review of Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive. So, what’s it about? Here’s the blurb:

The moving, powerful and urgent English-language debut from one of the brightest young stars in world literature

Suppose you and Pa were gone, and we were lost. What would happen then?

A family in New York packs the car and sets out on a road trip. A mother, a father, a boy and a girl, they head south west, to the Apacheria, the regions of the US which used to be Mexico. They drive for hours through desert and mountains. They stop at diners when they’re hungry and sleep in motels when it gets dark. The little girl tells surreal knock knock jokes and makes them all laugh. The little boy educates them all and corrects them when they’re wrong. The mother and the father are barely speaking to each other.

Meanwhile, thousands of children are journeying north, travelling to the US border from Central America and Mexico. A grandmother or aunt has packed a backpack for them, putting in a bible, one toy, some clean underwear. They have been met by a coyote: a man who speaks to them roughly and frightens them. They cross a river on rubber tubing and walk for days, saving whatever food and water they can. Then they climb to the top of a train and travel precariously in the open container on top. Not all of them will make it to the border.

In a breath-taking feat of literary virtuosity, Lost Children Archiveintertwines these two journeys to create a masterful novel full of echoes and reflections – a moving, powerful, urgent story about what it is to be human in an inhuman world.

If I’m being honest, I’m conflicted with this book. On one hand, I liked it but on the other, I didn’t… this book has been all over my social media and everyone seemed to love it so I thought I would too but… I just can’t help but feel that it was very dull and even boring at parts. She is a brilliant writer, there are some beautiful passages and she’s tackling an important story which I found interesting and insightful and she wrote that with brilliance but in terms of a novel, it just didn’t work for me. I found the first half an incredible slog to get through and a lot of people said to keep going as it will all be worth it in the end and while I found the second half better, I still didn’t like it, either. Overall, I think it’s a book that you don’t realise it’s full impact until you finish and you can reflect about it as a whole.

I found it also refreshing how she played with the idea of the ‘novel’ as it is something I haven’t read before and I found the overall structure of the book interesting, too. I especially enjoyed the Polaroid’s at the back of the book as it gave it another interesting layer to the book overall. I feel that this book had so much potential, but for me, it just didn’t work. But what an important and vital story to share and I guess the question that runs throughout the book: who’s willing to listen?

And that’s my review for Lost Children Archive! I think I might try and re-read one day and I might have a new perspective on it… but that’s it! I’m going to try and finish Girl, Woman, Other before the shortlist tomorrow and I’ll be back tomorrow with a post all about the shortlist and my thoughts! I’m rooting for Lanny all the way!

What books are you rooting for to be on the shortlist? Have you read Lost Children Archive? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you,

Corey.

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