The Lost Ones, by Anita Frank is an unsettling and harrowing tale of ghosts, lies, and secrets.
Home from serving as a nurse during the war, Stella Marcham is distraught and drowning in grief due to the loss of her fiance. However, when her brother-in-law asks her to visit her sister Madeleine to help settle her nerves during her pregnancy, Stella jumps at the chance.
However, as Stella settles in, as much as she can with the dire company that the house provides, she begins to suspect that the country mansion, Greyswick, is hiding something sinister. As her sister’s terror and unease rises, Stella also begins to experience some unsettling circumstances, from crying in the night to little toy soldiers appearing, she soon realises these dark halls are hiding even darker secrets.
And she soon learns that
“Some Houses Are Never At Peace.”
This debut historical ghost story certainly hits the mark, it is a stunning debut with gorgeous and immersive writing, and interesting and in-depth characters!
— Beautiful and Immersive —
The Writing Style and The Narrative. Anita Frank’s writing style is beautiful and immersive. Her writing style is reminiscent of literary and classic fiction, it is incredibly descriptive and is filled with pathos. While some may prefer less description, I did not – I loved the descriptive writing style and felt it was the perfect choice for this particular novel. Frank’s writing is beautifully metaphoric and has an element about it that just draws you in and keeps you hooked, elements that are sad and hard-breaking are written to be hard-hitting and emotional, while moments of grief and silence are melancholic. The writing is full of emotion and really connects you with the story.
The writing style also aids the narrative. The story is told from Stella’s point of view, you get to see her thoughts, her feelings and her mindset. This was an excellent narrative choice, the character is in grief, she is mourning and you can see that, you can feel it as you read through the novel. Moreover, the weaving of the past and present is simply outstanding and shows the dreadful contrast of before and after the war, it creates a resounding affect for the books tone and atmosphere and makes you truly empathise with Stella’s grief. However, Stella is so much more than this, yes she is grieving and it affects her mind and behaviour, but it does not control her. The grief changes through the novel and the narrative shows this while also showing how logical and clever Stella is. This narrative choice helps complete the character and add to the story. It adds to the story extraordinarily well because Stella is in the dark about the mystery of Greyswick, thus the reader is as well. We learn and theorise with the character and it helps to create mystery and suspense throughout.
— Haunting and Heartbreaking —
The Plot/Story. The plot of The Lost Ones takes you back to a more classic type of ghost story. The plot itself does concede to some classic horror tropes, but they are done extraordinarily well and captures your interest throughout the whole story. Frank ties together predictable and unpredictable elements to create mix of satisfaction and shock as the story progresses, for example, some elements of the story are easy to work out and will not come as much of a surprise, but this is soon thwarted by the addition of elements that, though they make sense, the reader does not expect at all. I enjoyed this mix of shock and surprise because it kept me entertained and made me feel more included in the novel. I was delighted when I worked out what was going on but then equally delighted to find I had missed crucial elements of the story which shocked me.
However, this story is more than just a ghost story, it is a haunting and heartbreaking tale of loss, grief and personal ghosts. There is a mystery to Stella’s relationship with Gerald and his demise, adding another dimension to the story which is emotional and sweet. Moreover, there is a mystery to the Annie, Madeleine, and the past of those not of Greyswick Mansion. There are so many layers to this story, and the ghosts are not always physical – this adds so much more depth to the plot and the characters which makes this book even more enjoyable.
The supernatural elements of the story are very interesting and definitely helps to create a sense of unease, many of these scenes were truly unsettling as were the revelations and had me on the edge of my seat! The ending and revelations were truly horrifying and deeply sorrowful – It is an ending that truly works its way into your heart and sits heavy, but does a wonderful job in concluding the events.
Moreover, the portrayal of grief throughout the novel was wonderful and interesting to read about. The idea of grief added to the plot in many unexpected ways and was a source of emotion and sympathy, but also of anger and rage. The grief of Stella is used by many to dismiss her, to ignore her or to belittle her but for Stella it serves only to drive her even more. This created a unique dynamic in the story, and while it is something I have seen before, I thought this was one of the best uses I have seen as it added so much more to the story and to the characters.
Not only is the plot a delicious ghost story, it is beautifully Gothic as-well, and we all know by know that I am a sucker for Gothic elements! So, I adored the Gothic elements in this book, particularly the setting. From Greyswick Mansion to the lands surrounding it, to the graveyards – the settings in the book are magnificent. They are large, isolated, desolate, dark and inherently creepy. The mansion if imposing yet lonely, with unsettling shadows and creepy corridors. The grounds are vast and isolated, creating an island of Greyswick. And, the graveyards are grey and dark, melancholic and almost peaceful, and yet there is still the element of death and sorrow. I simply adored this and the descriptions of each are gorgeously written.
— Complex and Well Crafted —
The Characters. Each of the characters are complex and well crafted. They are diverse in terms of personality, ability- with one character even having a physical disability resulting from the war- and some other diverse elements which I will not divulge. The personalities of each character are individual and complex making you have strong feeling about each of them.
Stella. Our main character! Stella is a wonderful main character. She is determined, headstrong, loyal and dedicated. She is grieving for the loss of her love, and this grief has caused her to view her own life as pointless, she struggles to cope and is heart-broken. But, in spite of this, and people viewing her ac frail or crazy, she is loyal to her sister. Though at times she can be selfish or simply consumed by her grief, she does her best to support her sister and goes to great lengths to ensure she feels safe. She is strong and adamant in her beliefs and is not afraid to show this, though she tries to avoid intentionally hurting others feelings. Her intelligence, sympathy and logic makes her easy to connect with and relate to, she is believable and realistic. Her characters is very complex and has many layers to her, she is a woman in a world were men deem them mentally weak, easy to succumb to madness and yet she stands up to this and proves her own strength. Though not perfect and not over her grief by the end of the novel, she does progress, she does improve, little by little she does fight the grief and come to terms with it. Her personal development is well written and believable, there is no new love interest to save her, she is not magically ‘fixed’ by then end, she saves herself while she tries to save others – it is a wonderful character arc that I really enjoyed.
Annie. Annie’s character is an enigma, she is an odd girl who people notice and avoid, she is seen as weird or creepy by most characters and the reader is also inclined to see her as odd. However, Annie is much more than that and her character becomes pivotal. She is kind, but secretive and introverted. I cannot say too much without spoilers but I loved her character and her personal development was also interesting to read about. Her relationship with Stella is also a very interesting element. She is Stella’s maid, and Stella is wary of her but as the novel progresses the two form an odd almost friendship with each other that inspires fierce loyalty and it was fantastic!
Mr Shears. Now this man is a character and a half. He is a realist, logic is his companion and ghosts are most certainly not, this is rooted in his service in the war. This man could explain away the manifestation of the devil without batting an eyelid! So, Mr Shears is brought in to prove the home is not haunted, and every single even that occurs he blames on some psychological issue. At this moment in time I hated the man and was definitely on Stella’s side. But, there was something about him that I could not shake, an allure. After he has been at the mansion a while he begins to realise there is more going on and he becomes a character I loved! He is stubborn, determined and brutally honest but is also loyal, protective, and desperate for the truth – his development is wonderful and by the end you will surely love him.
Madeleine. Madeleine is kind, sweet and obedient, until she reaches her breaking point. She is Stella’s sister, pregnant with her husband Hector’s child, she is fearful for her baby because of the odd happenings in the home. Out of frustration and exhaustion, Madeleine can become hot-headed, brutal and angry. But, overall she is sweet, kind and caring, devoted to her sister and her family and is a lovely character whose determination equals Stella’s.
The Brightwell Household. Lady Brightwell, Miss Scott, Mrs Henge. This trio is completely and utterly against the idea of a haunting. Each seem cold and distant with complete reluctance towards helping their guests find out the truth. Lady Brightwell is bold, commanding and unlikable, until the end of the novel where you soften to her ever so slightly. Miss Scott is obsessed with the well being of Lady Brightwell, is loyal to her, kinder than Mrs Henge, but still unwilling to help. Mrs Henge is unlikable ,cold and harsh. She will not help, is stubborn and despises intrusion. The characters are well developed and I felt strongly about each of them.
Other characters include: Maisie (the gossipy maid who is sweet and kind, generally likeable), Cook (kind, homely and helpful, a sweet character that I liked), Hector (Madeleine’s husband, I flitted between liking a disliking him, but overall he is kind, noble and loyal to his wife), Gerald (sweet, noble and naive- he is a contrast to some of the other male characters), and Dr Mayhew (unlikable, cruel and sexist – the Dr has no regard for grief and is constantly trying to undermine Stella – he is a villain in his own right and adds another dynamic to the book), Lucien, I cannot say much here but keep an eye out for his story – I simply adored it and it broke my heart.
— A Tale of Loss, Love and Lies —
Overall. This story is a tale of loss, love and lies. I loved the plot, albeit rather traditional, the characters were simply divine and well crafted, the settings were deliciously Gothic, and the writing was beautiful. This is a ghost story that I would definitely recommend – emotional, heart-breaking, creepy and unsettling, it is a horrifying story based on secrets and lies.
This is, in my opinion, a must read and an absolutely stunning debut novel. A ghost story with a classic feel with themes of grief, love, family and strength, it is the perfect read for fans of horror, thriller and mystery novels.
*I received a free eARC of #TheLostOnes by Anita Frank (@Ajes74) from #Netgalley @HQStories @HQYoungAdult @HarperCollins @HarperCollinsUK in exchange for an honest review.*