Be careful what you wish for…
Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t… Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined… Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it? What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything? A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart…
Today as part of the month long celebration of the wonder of Orenda Books, I am sharing once again my review of The Lion Tamer Who Lost! Deeply moving, this love story will forever be one of my very favourite reads.
There are some books that leave a strong impression on a reader because they pack an emotional punch, right in the solar plexus and The Lion Tamer That Lost is one of these very special books. It leaves you utterly devastated and yet filled with such joy because you were blessed to read it. It’s a complex reaction to a book, which is hard to put into words, so please forgive me Louise, if I fail to do justice to your book.
The Lion Tamer Who Lost is stunning. It’s sad, moving and achingly beautiful and for me Louise Beeches finest book to date. Andrew and Ben’s love story, will haunt me for years to come and they are both characters that will be forever be lodged in my heart for safe keeping.
It’s rare for a book to make me cry. I can name on one hand the books that have reduced me to tears. There is my favourite book of all time, Madeline Miller’s A Song For Achillies that reduced me to a sobbing mess, I still can’t read the last paragraphs without emotion catching in the back of my throat. Then there is my favourite read last year, Tin Man by Sarah Winman’s, which stole my heart and still I find myself thinking of Michael and Ellis! Or the equally splendid Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain. Well The Lion Tamer That Lost is there amongst these rarest of books and left me emotionally wrung out and I love it for that very reason. I enjoy so many books, but it’s rare and all the more special for an emotional connection to be made with a book and its characters. When it is, that book should be treasured.
What makes this book so out of the ordinary? It’s written with an emotional honesty that caught me unawares and unable to sleep when I finished it. The writer is not playing with your emotions, she is simply telling s story with searing honesty, which is heartbreaking on times, but also beautiful and bittersweet. Louise Beech writes with a deft hand about the complicated feelings that define human love, sexuality and friendship. Both Ben and Andrew are flawed, but what makes them special is that they are just ordinary men caught up in a maelstrom of emotions and relationships that threaten all that they hold dear.
Essentially the Lion Tamer that Lost is a story about love. It has elements of a mystery and it’s imbued with secrets and lies that come from the past to haunt the present. But for me, what matters the most was the attention paid to the relationship between Ben and Andrew. Meeting by chance, what develops is a bond that consumes them both and consumed me as well. You can’t ask more of any writer, than to tell as a story which leaves waves of emotional devastation in its wake. When the narrative is so beautiful, it’s worth the emotional investment and pain it causes within the reader; if it fills you with a plethora of emotions and produces a connection that binds you and the characters together. Louise Beech takes the characters on a journey of discovery, chance meetings, love, loss and discovery, not just for Ben and Andrew, but the supporting characters that surround them. Attention is paid to characters like Ben’s father, who grew and changed and she managed to change how I felt about him by the end of the novel. The story is made all the richer, in being character driven and because it is written with an understanding that it is often our differences that make us who we are and fascinating to read about.
I would recommend this book simply because it is a beautiful tale about love. Much like novels such as Tin Man, its power lies in the deceptively simple story. Neither book is simple, they are just written with effortless skill and an understanding of human nature.
About the author
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.