Title: The Lost Storyteller (review copy)
Author: Amanda Block
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Family Dynamics, Mystery
Blurb from NetGalley
Rebecca hasn’t seen her father Leo since she was six. Her family never talk about him, and she has long since pushed him firmly to the back of her mind. All she knows is that, once upon a time, he was a well-loved children’s TV star.
But when a journalist turns up uninvited at her office, asking questions about her once-famous father, Rebecca starts to wonder whether there is more to Leo’s absence than she realised. Then, looking for answers, she unearths a book of fairy tales written by Leo and dedicated to her – but what use are children’s stories to her now, all these years later?
Tentatively, Rebecca tries to piece together her father’s life, from the people he used to know and her own hazy memories. Yet her mind keeps returning to the magical, melancholic fairy tales, which seem to contain more truth than make-believe. Perhaps they are the key to unlocking the mystery of her father, the lost storyteller; to revealing who he was, what he went through – and even where he might be now…
What a fabulous contemporary book exploring familial relationships and mental health that ingeniously used dark fairytales as a compelling narrative device to give it a gothic and eerie feel.
The story opens with journalist Ellis contacting main character Rebecca in an effort to locate where her formerly famous actor father now is; for one of those where are they now style pieces.
But Rebecca doesn’t know where he is, and has neither seen nor heard from him since she was a young child. Added to this her mother refuses to talk about him and when he is mentioned the subject is quickly changed.
However her grandmother then discreetly gives Rebecca a book of seven fairytales. Fairytales seemingly written by her missing father and within these seven stories Rebecca seeks out clues as to what happened her father, and where he could possibly be now.
I really enjoyed this book. It was at times very atmospheric and magical, but it also excelled at exploring the complicated relationships between parents and their children. The juxtaposition of fairytale and modern contemporary made it feel unique among other debut releases this year in my opinion.
The prose, especially during the fairytale sections, was wonderfully descriptive and evoked those same feelings I had as a child reading fairytales by the Grimm Brothers in particular. The fairytales were dark and mysterious, and I loved how I as a reader read them alongside main character Rebecca. It made me feel truly invested in her journey to discover the truth of her father’s stories as she slowly peeled back the fabled layers to reveal a tale of mental illness (bipolar).
Where the book lacked a little for me was with regards to the relationships between Rebecca and her other family (mother, grandmother etc.) and with her burgeoning romance with Ellis. I found the interactions between mother and daughter to be especially emotive but would have loved to see more of how their relationship would develop post the book’s climax. And re the romance with Ellis: I just felt it was subtle. It was tantalised and hinted at for so long but with very little pay off come the book’s end.
I also feel the ending is somewhat flawed which is disappointing as the overall story is brilliant. It builds and builds and builds…. but it kinda falls a little flat in those last few pages. I think this is a book that could have benefitted from an epilogue in order to round out a few of the loose ends resulting from the fractured relationships that occurred during the course of the plot.
But overall I really liked this read. It would be a perfect book for fans of Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, or even a fan of an author such as Jessie Burton.
*An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review*
Publishing 8th July 2021, Hodder Studio