Reading guide for The Lost Child by Caryl Phillips

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The Lost Child

by Caryl Phillips

The Lost Child by Caryl Phillips X
The Lost Child by Caryl Phillips
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 272 pages
    Jun 2016, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. As The Lost Child unfolded, how did the opening scene affect your reading? How is the image of Heathcliff's mother echoed in subsequent chapters?
  2. The quest for social status and the pain of alienation drive much of the plot in Wuthering Heights. What might Emily Brontë have thought of the Johnson family?
  3. What is at the root of Monica and Julius's attraction to each other? In what ways are they both "foreigners"?
  4. In part IV, "The Family," Phillips provides a moving portrait of the Brontë sisters and their life with their brother and father. How did their fates influence your perception of the other characters in The Lost Child?
  5. What is at stake for Ronald Johnson in his career and within his household? Why is he willing to turn his back on Monica? Does he abandon her, or does she abandon him? If you were Ronald's daughter, would you have complied with his wishes?
  6. What aspirations and obligations shape Ruth's and Monica's approaches to motherhood? How do their experiences compare with those of Tommy and Ben's foster parents?
  7. Discuss the title. In what ways are the novel's adult characters just as lost as the children? Do any of the characters truly find their way home?
  8. Do Lloyd Samuels and Julius have a realistic chance to transform their worlds? Why isn't Julius able to extend his quest for equality to women, acknowledging the hypocrisy in his treatment of Monica?
  9. What role does education play in the characters' lives, from Ronald's pride when Monica is admitted to Oxford to the struggles Ben and Tommy face as schoolboys?
  10. In part VI, "Childhood," the point of view shifts to Ben's. How does his narration change the tone of the novel? If you were going to create a sound track for your life's turning points, which songs would you choose?
  11. Is Monica's relationship with Derek very different from her marriage to Julius? In part VIII, "Alone," what truths emerge about love and survival? Are Ben and Mandy the exception to the rules?
  12. What cultural revolutions are captured in the novel, from Britain's colonial era through the aftermath of the 1960s? Do the characters illustrate the growth of freedom, or does liberation continually evade them?
  13. What makes Tommy more vulnerable than his brother throughout his life? Does Ben wisely protect himself when he rebuffs Ronald, or does he miss an opportunity to receive comfort and security from his grandfather?
  14. How does The Lost Child expand on the notions of identity and ancestry explored in Caryl Phillips's previous novels? How did The Lost Child enhance your enjoyment of Wuthering Heights?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Picador. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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