Title: The Lost Storyteller
Author: Amanda Block
Publisher: Hodder Studio/Hachette, 2021; RRP: $32.99
Amanda Block achieved an MA in creative writing in Edinburgh after moving there in 2007 from her home in Devon. She still resides in Edinburgh where, before writing this book, she worked as a ghostwriter, editor, and tutor. She has had work shortlisted in the Bridport Prize and the Mslexia Short Story Competition. Her work is influenced by myths and fairy tales, which inspire her own stories. The Lost Storyteller is her first novel.
Rebecca Chase works in an office in an unfulfilling job when a journalist, Elliot Bailey, arrives asking questions about her past and that of her family. Initially unwilling to engage with Elliot, Rebecca sends him away, professing no knowledge in response to his questions about her father’s whereabouts. Her father, Leo Sampson, had left when Rebecca was a small child and she had not seen him for years. Leo had been a famous children’s TV entertainer and Elliot was writing a ‘where are they now’ story for his publication.
Soon after this, Rebecca attends a family function with her mother, aunt, uncle, and grandmother. At this event her grandmother secretly gives Rebecca a book that her father had left her years earlier, two years after they had last seen him. The book is a series of seven fairy tales Leo had written for her as a child.
After her initial reluctance to engage with Elliot, Rebecca teams up with him to discover what happened to her father, and in the process uncovers a range of family secrets. The stories in the book Leo had written are instrumental in the progress of the story. The idea of structuring the story around a series of fairy tales, with their symbolism and degree of familiarity of characters, is interesting.
Initially Rebecca appears somewhat weak and insipid; she’s stuck in a job that she finds tedious, with co-workers that tend to annoy her, and she’s overpowered by her forceful mother. Throughout the story her character develops by degrees, and she ends up making some much-needed changes in her life. The search for her father has its ups and downs, as do her interactions with Elliot. However, the inevitable happens, even if in a formulaic way, and from a less than promising start their relationship develops.
Despite one or two plot holes, and an early flagging of what had happened to her father, the story reaches a satisfying conclusion. The author handles some delicate issues sensitively and compassionately, and family relationships change and develop. Rebecca ends up in a much better place than she was at the beginning of the novel, and with a much more promising future.
Reviewed by: Elisabeth Bridson, November 2021
Ballarat Writers inc. Book Review Group