–By Marie Taylor
Lost Among the Living (April 2016 Penguin Random House) is my most recent read from author Simone St. James, and just like her other books it did not disappoint. I would put this book under the Historical Fiction/Mystery genres, and maybe even under the Supernatural one as well.
Besides having a pretty kick ass name, this author is very good at transporting the reader back into the 1920s, a decade that seems to be her signature backdrop for books.
Set in post-World War I England, this book introduces us to Jo Manders, a twenty-six-year-old widow who has been left penniless after her husband Alex was shot down over Germany. In order to make ends meet, Jo agrees to become a paid companion to Alex’s aunt, Dottie Forsyth, and travels with her to the home where an orphaned Alex spent some years of his childhood.
Almost immediately after Dottie and Jo arrive, Jo begins to feel that all is not well within the house, and it is up to her to put things right. What follows is a chilling journey into the Forsyth’s family past, where a previous murder and its repercussions continues to haunt the family.
Jo narrates the entire story, and it’s her perspective that we get throughout the tumultuous moments of the book. Jo first brings us through her time as Dottie’s traveling companion in 1921, which is several years after the war has ended (and several years after Jo’s husband had died). We then get to experience Jo’s first memories of meeting Alex, her struggle with her mother, who suffers from “madness” that keeps her in a sanatorium, and finally to the journey that brings these elements of her past to a provocative climax.
I absolutely love the authenticity of the era that St. James brings to every single one of her books. She really delves fully into the post-war period (a time period that I love, by the way) and all of the struggles that came with moving on from the war.
What always gets to me is thinking of how brutal of a war it was, yet the generation that experienced it firsthand had to somehow pick up all of the pieces from that time and move forward into a new era. It’s no wonder they often called themselves the “lost” generation. Going from the horror of war and death to the decadence and lavishness of the 1920s was quite a jump.
For those who love historical fiction and a strong female protagonist, this book is a must-read. There are supernatural elements to this book, so if that’s not your thing I would just advise that you keep an open mind, because I promise that this book is worth it.
A book that tries to tap into so many different elements can sometimes be overwhelming for a reader, but Simone St. James manages to find balance in the story line and in her characters. This author is an underrated gem in the historical fiction/supernatural literary world, and I cannot wait to read what she comes out with next.