Wednesday, December 9, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: The Lost Manuscript by Cathy Bonidan

 I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review. 

I’ve said it before: I’m a sucker for a good epistolary novel. I also love books about books. So I was thrilled to be approved for The Lost Manuscript by Cathy Bonidan, translated by Emma Ramadam. 

Anne-Lise Briard is on vacation in a picturesque hotel on the French coast when she finds a manuscript in the drawer of the bedside table. A lover of literature, she reads it and is entranced, moved, and intrigued. There is an address tucked midway in the book, so she mails the manuscript back, unsure who might have written it, how long ago it was written, or how it could have ended up in the drawer. 

The manuscript finds its way back to the author, who mislaid it many years ago, gave up on his writing career, and got on with his life. He has no idea how it ended up in the drawer. To add to the mystery, he didn’t finish the novel. Someone else did. And he has no idea how that happened either.

Anne-Lise is not going to let it end there. She is a people person with remarkable powers of persuasion. She begins to retrace, backwards, the progress of the manuscript through the years. She finds the people who have touched it, who it has touched, all of whom have a story to tell.

The novel within the novel is a love story, an unfinished one, that has the power to reawaken love and life in its readers. (I’m glad that excerpts from the novel in question are not included, because they no doubt would have been a disappointment.) The characters who played a role in passing it on all become part of the network working to solve the mystery of the manuscript’s trail and, most importantly, to discover the identify of the second author.

It’s a charming story full of good people who appreciate what books can do. Yes, it’s corny and not quite believable, but it’s lovely entertainment.

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