The Light That Gets Lost – Natasha Carthew

Behind the slatted cupboard door the young boy adjusted his eyes to the dark and pressed his face to the tickle and cuddle of familiar coats. He could hear the shouting deep down in the belly of the house, a stranger’s voice rolling thick with gravel stones, and he thought he heard his brother squeal and wished him quiet. Dad was churning up a storm, his low voice booming, steady, concentrating fear. 

The boy knew it would be over soon. The man with the menace would be gone and the drum of kitchen pots and pans would mean Mum was getting the dinner on; the one good square meal with everyone sitting table tight. The boy smelt the trace of Mum’s perfume in the oily fur of a coat she no longer wore and he petted the animal and pulled it to him. 

Even if I didn’t love the book – how gorgeous is this cover?!

I’ve always said to myself that I have to be honest with my reviews, especially ARCs I receive through NetGalley. This is one of those that I have to honestly say I didn’t enjoy and had to really push myself to finish. The initial story really interested me when I found it on the website, a classic revenge story when three year old Trey sees his parents murdered in front of him through the slats of the cupboard he’s hiding in. 

We then skip forward an unmentioned number of years to Trey being sent to this camp for “troubled teens” run by what appears to be a religious cult of some kind. It’s never really said what they are which is my first real qualm with this novel. There is no real backstory to why the camps were set up in the first place for these teenagers. There is prior knowledge of the camps that Trey knows but none of this is really handed over to the reader. We are sent into this setting without really knowing what to expect, which I think is meant to put the reader on edge, but actually left me more confused than anything. The scale of the camp is also really confusing to me. There are lots of parts to the camp that Trey visits (the bunkhouse, the farm, the canteen, the farmhouse etc.) and to know where one of these is in relation to the other, especially for the end of the novel, is really important. Yet there is no map. This would be an addition I would make immediately – purely to avoid any confusion. 

Another thing I found confusing when reading was trying to remember who everyone was. You’re introduced to a lot of characters because of the camp setting and therefore it’s important for each character to have really defining characteristics. This I thought was what was really lacking. Trey is our main character so we are immediately forced to really remember him and what he’s been through in his past, yet he’s still slightly undefined. There’s lots of references to “the demon” throughout but I still have no idea after finishing the novel as to what this really meant for his character. Was it some vengeful part of his soul? Or was it his anger? I’m not sure if it’s meant to be open to reader interpretation but it is overly confusing and an almost unnecessary addition to the story without the explanation. 

Other characters I didn’t really like were Lamby and the twins John and David. They seemed undefined, especially the latter two, and I didn’t really feel much of a connection to either of them. Even when Lamby is sent to hospital half way through the novel I found myself not really caring at all. This is something that I really wanted to feel when reading this. Emotions run really high when revenge is involved, see Hamlet by Shakespeare if you don’t believe me, so I really wanted to feel either sad or angry but all I felt was disappointment. I was disappointed that Carthew also felt the need to implement a love story. Kay is probably one of the characters that I actually like; but I didn’t like her until the very end of the novel, when we actually discovered what she did to end up in the camp. This is what I wanted for all of the characters, including Trey; detailed descriptions of their past lives. Rather than talking me through what they did for work on the farm it should’ve introduced me to the characters, including Wilder, the antagonist, and then given me what they did to end up in the camp. Then we could’ve skipped through quite a lot of the novel to the last quarter or third which was honestly my favourite. 

The action sequences at the end of the novel are really my favourite part. The tension and pacing in the last four chapters is definitely better than during the rest of the novel. The beginning is slow and drawn out with the language feeling like it’s trying too hard to be poetic, but the end is less so. It’s much more of a refined segment, and this I think is owed to the more central role of the antagonist; Wilder. He’s an interesting character. There is a twist regarding him and Trey but its so sudden that it almost feels like an afterthought. The building upon this in the last four chapters though really adds depth to the characters and I love that fact. 

Overall this book took me a long time to finish. I didn’t really enjoy the first half of the book and it was a struggle to get through these. I considered not finishing it. That was how badly I felt about the first half. However, I think that it is worth pushing through if you have the time. The language and dialogue can be a bit like marmite, either you’ll love it or you’ll hate it, and the characters are a bit the same. Yet the ending, I’d say, is worth the drag. The Light That Gets Lost has a wonderful message hidden within the last chapter, which I think relates to the idea of being lost in life, love, and within yourself. 

Total pages – 320 

Total read time – Untimed

Rating /10 – 4

Recommend – Maybe if you have the time 


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