The Lost Life | Steven Carroll

Poetry is not normally my thing.
Perhaps I’m not emotional enough, high brow enough or enough in the know. I often just don’t get it, or if I get it I just don’t care.

However T.S. Eliot has been an exception over the years.

Snippets of his poems have entered my world at appropriate times. I have felt understood. And certain moments of my life have been enhanced by an Eliot poem.

Carroll uses one of Eliot’s poems ‘Burnt Norton’ to weave together a story about the passing of time, love won and lost and what might have been with a fictionalised account of Eliot’s relationship with Miss Hale.

Carroll imagines Eliot & Hale at Burnt Norton together through the eyes of a young couple on the precipice of first love.

The flowery language and introspective nature of this book will not appeal to everyone. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. Stop! I loved it! Carroll’s descriptions of the era (between the wars) and the rose garden in particular were so beautifully rendered that I could imagine it completely.

Perhaps a little taste so you can see what I mean…

Her eyes shine, not with contentment but with the sheer delight of a young woman in love – the happiness of a woman who has kept her love inside her, stoppered in a bottle, and who is only now uncorking her happiness, releasing the young woman she once was because the time is right. (pg18)


They are at once real and ghosts from another age. They glide by in front of her as if inhabiting another garden in another time….they are enacting something they never did, once upon a time, when the act was there to be performed, but which, for one reason or another, never was.’ (pg37)

The Lost Life will stay with me for quite some time, I think. It is officially Book 1 in the Eliot Quartet. I can’t wait to see what Carroll does with the other three books.

England, September 1934. Two young lovers, Catherine and Daniel, have trespassed into the rose garden of Burnt Norton, an abandoned house in the English countryside.

Hearing the sound of footsteps, they hide, and then witness the poet T.S. (‘Tom’) Eliot and his close friend Emily enter the garden and bury a mysterious tin in the earth. Tom and Emily knew each other in America in their youth; now in their forties, they have come together again. In the enclosed world of an English village one autumn, their story becomes entwined with that of Catherine and Daniel, who are certain in their newfound love and full of possibility.

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