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Signs for Lost Children: Book summary and reviews of Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss

Signs for Lost Children

by Sarah Moss

Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss X
Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss
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  • Published in USA  May 2016
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    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

Award-winning author Sarah Moss's most recent work of historical fiction is a portrait of a young couple's unconventional marriage as it's tested by separate quests for identity in work and life.

Set in the Victorian Age, Signs for Lost Children grapples with central themes of early feminism, mental health reform, and marriage as an imposed institution. 

Ally Moberly, a recently qualified doctor, never expected to marry until she met Tom Cavendish. Only weeks into their marriage, Tom sets out for Japan, leaving Ally as she begins work at the Truro Asylum in Cornwall. Horrified by the brutal attitudes of male doctors and nurses toward their female patients, Ally plunges into the institutional politics of women's mental health at a time when madness is only just being imagined as treatable. She has to contend with a longstanding tradition of permanently institutionalizing women who are deemed difficult, all the while fighting to to be taken seriously as a rare woman in a profession dominated by men. Tom, an architect, has been employed to oversee the building of Japanese lighthouses. He also has a commission from a wealthy collector to bring back embroideries and woodwork. As he travels Japan in search of these enchanting objects, he begins to question the value of the life he left in England. As Ally becomes increasingly absorbed in the moral importance of her work, and Tom pursues his intellectual interests on the other side of the world, they will return to each other as different people.

With her artful blend of emotional insight and narrative skill, Sarah Moss creates an entrancing novel sure to draw critical acclaim. From the blustery coast of Western England to the towns and cities of Japan, she constructs distinct but conjoined portraits of two remarkable people in a swiftly changing world.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize for Historical Fiction

"A delicate, forgiving consideration of mental health and healing." - Kirkus Reviews

"The richness of Moss's work is astonishing. Few writers demonstrate such quietly magisterial command of the rocky territories of both the heart and mind." - The Independent (UK)

"We have in Ally one of the most memorable heroines of recent fiction. If there's one author to take a chance on this year, let it be [Sarah Moss]." - The Times (UK)

"A compelling, often harrowing, occasionally heartbreaking read. A quietly devastating portrait of the way identity crumbles when you've nothing, or no one, to pin it to." - The Guardian (UK)

"Moss, a writer of complexity, and restraint, shows real skill in the way she brings these 'lost children' back together." - Financial Times (UK)

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Author Information

Sarah Moss Author Biography

Sarah Moss was born in Glasgow and moved to Manchester as a young child and lived there until she left for Oxford at eighteen. It was a Northern childhood, revolving around her home in south Manchester, her grandparents in rural Yorkshire, and weekends spent climbing mountains in the Lake District. These are still the landscapes that feel like home to her.

Moss spent ten years in Oxford, taking a BA, MS. and D.Phil in English Literature and then a postdoctoral research fellowship. There Moss developed her two main research interests: the literature of the far north, and in food and material culture in fiction, specializing in the Romantic and early Victorian periods. Moss moved on to be a lecturer and then senior lecturer at the University of Kent from 2004 – 2009, when Cold Earth...

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