Signs for Lost Children

Written by Sarah Moss
Review by Tim Smith

1880s England. Signs for Lost Children picks up directly from where Sarah Moss’ previous novel Bodies of Light left off. Freshly qualified doctor, Ally, has married Tom, an engineer, but after only three months he must leave for work in Japan. Ally volunteers at the local asylum, struggling to improve the lot of the women there; struggling too against prejudice aimed at female doctors, and her own mother’s austere voice in her head. In Japan, Tom finds a country and lifestyle utterly at odds with the one he has left behind. The enforced separation so early in their marriage is a struggle for both, leading them to question their commitment to each other and their place in the world.

Sarah Moss writes beautifully, and in many ways this is a continuation of the first book, but it treads a little more heavily than its predecessor. It does not manage to walk the fine line of Bodies of Light, a book in which much was left unsaid. This time, too much is said; points are often driven home. Ally remains an interesting character, but Tom feels like a mirror held up to reflect only certain, shiny aspects of Japanese culture. This is a good book, with things to say and worth a read.