At the end of Brooke Davis’ Lost and Found the author thanks one of her mentors for pushing her to ‘cut the cute’ but remaining confident on her writing when she didn’t. There’s plenty of ‘cute’ in the Australian writer’s debut novel, which is unashamedly sugary but still wonderful fun, but it’s our gain that she kept it in.
Very little of the plot is plausible, and towards the end the story becomes unashamedly sentimental, yet I was still captivated by Millie’s madcap adventures across Australia. Millie, seven years old and as precocious, inquisitive and circumspect as any literary heroine twice her age, finds herself unceremoniously forgotten in a department store. As we learn, her father has passed away – Millie dutifully logs this in her register of Dead Things, while contemplating his exact whereabouts (with Jimi Hendrix, as far as she can understand) – and her mother is missing.
Initially, it’s a marvellous escapade, as Millie does all the things we’d imagine doing in a department store after dark (eating the food, trying out the make-up, and generally exploring the place), but it doesn’t take long for the authorities to catch on. So, terrified of being thwarted in her mission to find her mum, she sets out on an epic journey, accompanied by two slightly unhinged but indomitable elderly acquaintances.
Over the course of the book, Millie learns about the real world and how it’s not quite what she expected, while her octogenarian chums Karl the Touch Typist and Agatha Pantha meditate on love and loss in an improbable, but absolutely adorable way. Along the way they meet a straight-talking bus driver, a snarling, spineless train conductor, and a boy who turns out to be something of a kindred spirit for Millie.
It’s a ridiculous set-up, and you have to suspend every ounce of your disbelief to read it. But it’s brilliantly written; Millie is a wise and observant narrator, who may not understand the contradictions and quirks of everyday life but is keen to ponder them, with gratifying results. Karl and Agatha, both of them full of grief and spurred on by a sense of injustice at the world, are far from the stereotypical sage elderly figures that appear so often in fiction, and far more entertaining for it.
The publicity campaign compares this to A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Rosie Project, but really, this is a special, unique story; a novel to cheer you up, make you laugh and even make you tear up at the end. Already a bestseller abroad, Lost and Found deserves to fly off the shelves in the UK too.
Published by Hutchinson, Brooke Davis’ Lost and Found is available to buy online here.