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Fiction featuring Care Experience

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The Lost Child

Caryl Phillips


The Lost Child is a sweeping story of orphans and outcasts, haunted by the past and fighting to liberate themselves from it. At its centre is Monica Johnson, cut off from her parents after falling in love with a foreigner, and her bitter struggle to raise her sons in the shadow of the wild moors of the north of England. Intertwined with her modern narrative is the ragged childhood of Emily Brontë’s Heathcliff, the anti-hero of Wuthering Heights and one of literature’s most enigmatic lost boys.

The Lost Child is bookended by two scenes that feature the seven-year-old Heathcliff. Left purposefully mysterious by Emily Brontë, his origins are here fleshed out by Phillips, who makes him the illegitimate son of Mr Earnshaw by an African former slave. In the early scene, the boy’s mother is dying of disease in Liverpool; the novel ends with her son being led over the moors by Mr Earnshaw to Wuthering Heights.

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