Lost Property by Laura Beatty

Atlantic Books, May 2019, 272 pp

Atlantic Books, May 2019, 272 pp

Could I time this review any better considering last night’s elections? In what resembles more a fictional travelogue than a traditional novel, Laura Beatty’s narrator is perplexed by her homeland and embarks on a roadtrip through Europe in an attempt to understand her altered, indifferent Britain. Together with her common law husband, they drive across the continent and along the way encounter various historical figures from poets to philosophers. Lost Property has a sense of the fantastic, as Gabriele d’Annunzio, Ariosto, Joan of Arc, and Herodotus – to name only a few – join the couple’s entourage as actual characters of the story, in constant dialogue with each other. 

Beatty’s novel is essentially a meditation on Europe, a re-evaluation of the continent from a British perspective (post-Brexit), drawing on the long history of European arts. This focus on cultural references brings about a rather slow-moving narrative in good and bad: Beatty is clearly erudite, but personally I felt a little bogged down by the loads of information. On the upside, the novel contains some beautiful descriptions of the landscapes of countries you don’t often see in British novels, like Serbia and Bulgaria. In a way, the novel is a timely homage to Europe during these turbulent times, but I’m not completely sure if it makes the most alluring story. 

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