Lost Boys — A Book Review

10 June 2009
The Times and The Sunday Times

At the heart of James Miller’s first novel is the shocking theme of missing children: images of abandoned, abused, ghostly children soak the book’s pages, invading the characters’ dreams, their waking visions, filling up its streets, corridors, schools and barricaded homes. This imagery has a global width and depth. Throughout the novel, Miller disturbingly juxtaposes the desperate plight of homeless children in the Middle East with the trapped, closeted, joyless lives of public school boys in present day Britain. It makes for alarming but riveting reading.
In its totality, the novel is a mélange of many different genres, blending sci-fi, horror and thrillerish elements but, for all its textual complexity, in essence it’s two distinct narratives: a rites of passage story about a bullied public school boy who disappears and his father’s desperate search for his son and some sort of meaning in our post-modern world.
The father’s story kicks off the novel in very dramatic fashion. Arthur Dashwood, an oil exec, is kidnapped in Baghdad and permanently traumatized by the experience. Miller’s camera-like prose then focuses upon Arthur’s son, Timothy, who is being bullied at his miserable public school. Finding no real comfort from his distressed father and his increasingly neurotic mother, the over-protected Timothy seeks release in playing violent interactive computer games on the internet, imagining he is fighting in the Middle East. His misery is further exacerbated when a boy goes missing at his school: he is questioned by the police and subtly blamed by the pupils for the boys’ disappearance until he too goes missing.
The book then shifts in tone and style. Switching to the perspective of the father, we find him listening to tapes of various people being interviewed by a mysterious private detective about the disappearance. The climax of the novel is very successful. Miller manages to draw the reader persuasively into an increasingly nightmarishly surreal world, in a way that reminded me of Kazuo Ishiguru’s astonishing When We Were Orphans. Having a young son myself, this novel really made think about what we are doing to our boys in this society. This is a powerful, entertaining and disturbing read. Highly recommended.
Lost Boys by James Miller, published by Little Brown on 3rd July, 12.99
ISBN: 978-1-4087-0088-4

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