Title: Little Lost Girl
Author: Graham Wilson
Genre: Australian Historical Fiction
Favourite Part: The way in which the antique perfume bottle was threaded through the story and linked each era together.
Favourite Quote: “There were scents of frangipani, wafting on late summer afternoons, as they played under leafy branches shaded from the hot afternoon sun.”
This book was sent to me by the author for review. All opinions are my own.
The first instalment in the Old Balmain House series, Little Lost Girl follows generations of the Rodgers, McVey, Buller, and Williams families from their settlement in Australia before Federation to the disappearance of Sophie Williams in 1908. The story takes place over a century, opening to present day and the purchase of the Balmain House, and the subsequent discovery of an old perfume bottle and photograph of a young girl from 100 years ago. After this discovery we delve into the history of the house, those who lived there and the heartbreak that follows each family over the years. Given that this is the first book in a series, the story mainly follows the history of each family and how they came to live in Balmain from their respective origins. It is only towards the last half of the book that we learn about Sophie and her disappearance, despite her being billed as the central character.
While I enjoyed the way in which the author delved into each family tree, carefully explaining the intricacies of the relationships between each character culminating to the introduction of Sophie, I found at times the story meandered and became quite confusing. The naming of children after their parents (which is certainly historically accurate) made it hard to understand which character was being discussed at certain times, and I found myself having to go back and reread some paragraphs to get a grasp on what was happening. I was thankful that a family description with each character was included at the start of the book; without this I would have struggled to understand the storyline.
I enjoyed the historical fiction aspect of the book, as I have not read much Australian historical fiction set during the late 1800s in places such as Sydney. The description of life in Balmain at the time was lovely, and I felt transported back to that time with the lush descriptions of the landscape. The pure wonderment of the migrant children when they experienced Australia for the first time and their curiosity towards wildlife was heart-warming. I did however find there was a bit of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ which created a sense flatness to the characters, which felt out of place given the vibrant descriptions of the Sydney landscape.
An ambitious tale of families, grief and old mysteries, Little Lost Girl is a great start to a historical fiction series. I felt a connection to the Old Balmain House and the history behind it, and I grieved alongside the characters as their lives were shaped by death and sorrow. I look forward to reading the next book in the Old Balmain House series.