Publisher's Note:  

In the tradition of A. S. Byatt's Possession, a hauntingly poignant novel about madness, loss, and the ties that bind our past to our present
Deep in the woods of northern England, somewhere between a dilapidated estate and an abandoned Victorian asylum, fifteen-year-old Jane Standen lived through a nightmare.  She was babysitting a sweet young girl named Lily, and in one fleeting moment, lost her. The little girl was never found, leaving her family and Jane devastated.

Twenty years later, Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As a final research project--an endeavor inspired in part by her painful past--Jane surveys the archives for information related to another missing person: a woman who disappeared over one hundred years ago in the same woods where Lily was lost. As Jane pieces moments in history together, a portrait of a fascinating group of people starts to unfurl. Inexplicably tied to the mysterious disappearance of long ago, Jane finds tender details of their lives at the country estate and in the asylum that are linked to her own heartbroken world, and their story from all those years ago may now help Jane find a way to move on.

In riveting, beautiful prose, The World Before Us explores the powerful notion that history is a closely connected part of us--kept alive by the resonance of our daily choices--reminding us of the possibility that we are less alone than we might think.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Random House

The World Before Us

by Aislinn Hunter

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Overall Review:  

Imagine being put in charge of minding a young child, and that child goes missing. Poof, gone. One minute they were there, and the next, when your back was turned for one second, they aren't. How horrifying this would be. It would change your life, and the life of the child's family, forever. In The World Before Us Jane, a teenager who has never had anything tragic happen to her, is put in charge of a young girl for a day. When the young girl, Lily, goes missing in the blink of an eye, Jane places all of the blame on herself, and knows she will have to live with this event lurking in the back of her mind for the rest of her life.


One aspect of this book I was quite interested in was the adult Jane's employment as an archivist at a failing museum. Museums have always fascinated me, and the descriptions of some of the relics that Jane came into contact with were lovely, especially since most of them exist in real museums today. Although I may never see these items in my lifetime, it was fun to get to know them briefly through the eyes of the protagonist.


This book consists of chapters that switch between Jane's perspective, and the perspective of other characters throughout. It also goes forward and backward in time, from Jane's present day adult life, to the life she has flashbacks about--the day when Lily went missing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it reminded me a lot of the film documentary "Cropsey" which I watched several years ago. The author took two seemingly unrelated stories and twined them together in ways one cannot imagine or understand until the very last pages of this book. The slight creepiness that was within the pages of The World Before Us is enough to keep one reading, but not such a fright that the reader will be left with nightmares. If the synopsis and cover of this book aren't enough to make you want to read this novel, then perhaps the mention that part of this story is centered around an insane asylum will pique your interest?


Review of an Advance Reader Copy

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamation; 1 scatological word; 7 F-Word derivatives.


Violence/Gore:  A young child goes missing; a character is found dead, a brief description is given of the body; a character is mentioned to hang self; suicide is referred to several times; a character is shot with a gun and some blood is described along with the gun wound.


Sex/Nudity:  Adults kiss; sex is referred to; an adult couple is mentioned to make love in one brief scene, no description is given; sex between adults is implied; an affair is discovered; some brief clinical nudity is mentioned in referral to a dead body.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Ghosts/Supernatural, death, suicide, missing persons, cancer, mental disabilities.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Adults smoke; adults drink; a boy is mentioned to be "high".

Reviewed By Lydia
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