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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Shopping Mall As Both Location And Character

What Was Lost - Catherine O'flynn

The shopping mall is relatively unexplored territory for writers of literary fiction. So it was an interesting decision by Catherine O'Flynn to use it as the setting for her novel. Focusing on the disappearance of a ten year old girl,the narrative is split between 1984 when the mall is in its early days and 2003, when it has become the kind of cathedral to consumerism we're all so familiar with today.


The first half of the novel is told from the point of view of Kate, the girl who disappears, and the second part from the point of view of two of the workers in the centre - Kurt, a security guard, and Lisa who works in a music store. As their narratives become entwined and begin to reach out tendrils to some of the book's other characters - like Gavin another security guard obsessed with the history of the mall, and Teresa, school-friend of the missing girl and victim of parental abuse - the mystery of Kate's disapperance is gradually illuminated. This is an accomplished debut. The range of voices is impressive and the plotting is both complex and satisfying. A page turner with hidden depths.