I’m absolutely delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for David Whitehouse’s latest novel, The Long Forgotten. This was a novel that I was eager to read as soon as I heard about it late last year, drawn by both the blurb and the comparisons to the works of David Mitchell and Matt Haig.
When the black box flight recorder of a plane that went missing 30 years ago is found at the bottom of the sea, a young man named Dove begins to remember a past that isn’t his. The memories belong to a rare flower hunter in 1980s New York, whose search led him around the world and ended in tragedy.
Restless and lonely in present-day London, Dove is quickly consumed by the memories, which might just hold the key to the mystery of his own identity and what happened to the passengers on that doomed flight, The Long Forgotten.
There are multiple threads to this novel, and it wasn’t immediately clear how they were connected. Firstly, there is Dove – a young man working in ambulance dispatch who was abandoned as a baby. Whilst he was taken in by a loving older couple, the emotional scars that he bears as a result of his abandonment and not knowing his birth parents are easy to see, and I felt a great deal of sympathy for Dove as he feels the need to keep other people at arms’ length, his fear of abandonment still strong even as an adult. He is a lovely if slightly unusual character, and I enjoyed the slow reveal of both his past and present, the latter of which is dominated by the memories that he begins to experience – memories that can’t be his own.
The memories he begins to experience are those of Peter Manyweathers – a man who cleans the houses of the recently deceased – usually when they weren’t found straightaway. After finding a bog violet on one of his jobs, he quickly becomes obsessed with seeking out rare flowers around the world. For me, Peter’s adventures were the best part of the novel. Whilst set in the very recent past, travel at the time was so different to what it is today, and I loved the journeys he made as he sought out increasingly rare blooms that are often situated in inaccessible places, flowering for a brief period of time. Whilst not much of one for flowers, I couldn’t help but look up some these blooms myself as I read along, thoroughly intrigued by this unusual hobby.
There is also the mystery of the black box flight recorder of flight PS570, which disappeared 30 years ago, and I was intrigued to see how the novel would play out and how the various threads would come together by the end of the story, which didn’t quite end as I expected it to. This is a wonderfully touching novel, by turns amusing (usually because of Professor Cole, who discovers the flight recorder) and sad. It explores themes of memory, identity and self-discovery, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Long Forgotten will be published on 22 March by Picador. Many thanks to Emma Finnigan for the review copy, and to Anne Cater for inviting me to join the blog tour.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour: