Etta

Review: The Lost Manuscript (ARC)

Expected publication: January 12th 2021 , 288 pages

Author: Cathy Bonidan

When Anne-Lise Briard books a room at the Beau Rivage Hotel for her vacation on the Brittany coast, she has no idea this trip will start her on the path to unearthing a mystery. In search of something to read, she opens up her bedside table drawer in her hotel room, and inside she finds an abandoned manuscript. Halfway through the pages, an address is written. She sends pages to the address, in hopes of potentially hearing a response from the unknown author. But not before she reads the story and falls in love with it. The response, which she receives a few days later, astonishes her…

Not only does the author write back, but he confesses that he lost the manuscript 30 years prior on a flight to Montreal. And then he reveals something even more shockingthat he was not the author of the second half of the book.

Anne-Lise can’t rest until she discovers who this second mystery author is, and in doing so tracks down every person who has held this manuscript in their hands. Through the letters exchanged by the people whose lives the manuscript has touched, she discovers long-lost love stories and intimate secrets. Romances blossom and new friends are made. Everyone’s lives are made better by this bookand isn’t that the point of reading? And finally, with a plot twist you don’t see coming, she uncovers the astonishing identity of the author who finished the story. 

A manuscript’s journey than spans decades set the scene for this tale. What would you do if you came across a book’s manuscript randomly while you were on vacation? The story is set out to find what happens after a woman finds a manuscript and sends it back to its original author.  She finds him easily due to the address found on one of the pages, but there is a twist where there is actually a second author for the ending of the book and the original author never finished his work. Our tale takes place in a series of letters as the woman sets out on a quest to find not only the identity of the second author, but also how the manuscript ended up at point B from its origin as point A.

Anne-Lise Briard (her maiden name as I do not recall her married name given) is on vacation in the Brittany Coast at the Beau Rivage Hotel in room 128. When she opened one of the bedside drawers, she discovered a manuscript. Her curiosity piqued and she read the pages and became entranced in the story of romance. While reading she comes across a page with an address written on it before the writing style and formatting changes towards the end of the book as if the same person as the first did not write it. She decides the manuscript is not to keep and it belongs with its author so she mails it along with a letter to the address found written on one of its pages. This sets the story in motion and more characters are introduced as we follow the manuscript’s journey from its origin in Montreal, Canada, while the author was on a trip, to the peaceful and quiet Brittany Coast in France.

The story begins with Anne-Lise and her best friend Maggy as the known character. Maggy lives a quiet life on the Brittany Coast near the very hotel that starts our story. As the novel moves on, little by little her background is revealed and we learn more about her character. She enjoys her solitude for the most part and lives her life without modern technology, including having a phone (cell phone or landline) as she uses the one at the hotel if needed. Our third main character of the author, Sylvetre, is introduced when he responds to Anne-Lise’s initial letter. We learn more about his character a semi-recluse (he used to travel, but has not in decades as he prefers the quiet life). Together, they each play a role in finding out the identity of the second author.

Our journey spans six months and we follow the manuscript’s journey by starting at the end. Each letter and new character reveals where the manuscript was a certain period of time and the character whose life was touched by its writing. We work our way through five different countries and multiple cities within those places. Each new reveal paints a picture of how the manuscript ended up in their hands, how it moved on to its next destination, and how it touched their lives. Some characters end up becoming more prominent than others become as they become involved in the manuscript mystery. However, each does play a part and are memorable. There are places where it is hard to keep up with their different stories, but overall it was not difficult to understand the main events.

The writing is descriptive and each character, generally, has their own voice as the author of their own letters. Each letter’s writing also follows whom they are a correspondence between as they move between the formal and informal. One character would write about events one way to a certain character and then the tone would change as is recounted to another. Each character does reveal their own national pride as their characters describe their own homes and some prejudices are revealed at times when they talk about other places around the world and their cultures. It is not a huge part of the story as it is revealed as tidbits here and there.

Overall, the story is an easy read with well-written poetic letters moving the story along. We experience the events through each character as a second-hand observer. Each letter not only recaps the events to give updates on the new developments, but also give the reader insights into each character. The power of how a book can touch the lives of people was well done and enjoyable. I loved how it slowly gets revealed Anne-Lise’s backstory and why this book touched her life enough to set the events in motion. The unearthing of the second author’s identity was unexpected and it was done well as you guess about the identity, but you never become too certain. It is a light-hearted story with an interesting and unique cast of characters that would probably have never interacted if it were not for the power of one manuscript. A well-done piece of writing that would intrigue me to read more by this author.

**I give a special thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC to read and review. Opinions expressed are completely my own.**

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