In the months since the Great War, Benjamin feels adrift. He trained as a doctor, but he has lost confidence in his ability to heal. Likewise, he feels a growing detachment towards the business of farming, even though he was born and raised on a farm in Virginia. And most disconcerting of all, he has lost track of his childhood friend and fellow veteran, Elias. Benjamin decides to travel to Paris for a few weeks, the last place he remembers being in Elias’ company. Armed with Elias’ photo and knowledge that the man liked to paint, Benjamin plans to find his missing friend by simply scouring the city until Elias turns up.
Benjamin is not alone in his task. The landlady at his rented rooms offers advice and a former dancer named Louie, who lives in the flat beneath Benjamin’s, gets enlisted in the effort as well. Louis is not impressed with Benjamin at first. However, as the days turn to weeks and Benjamin doggedly hunts for his friend, Louis is both impressed and a bit envious of the loyalty Elias seems to have earned from the rather earnest Benjamin. Benjamin, for his part, is glad to have the assistance of someone with deep ties to the city. There is one issue, however. Whenever Benjamin actively tries to remember details about when he last saw Elias or how they parted, or even what exactly happened when the war ended, Benjamin discovers his memory is grossly lacking. In fact, the harder he tries to remember the specifics of his relationship with Elias, the less detail he can actually recall.
Benjamin’s pre-planned return to America looms ever closer. The chances of finding Elias in a city of millions are vanishingly small. What’s more, as snippets of his memory come slowly back to Benjamin, he realizes two things. One is that his relationship with Elias likely extends beyond friendship. And two, in the absence of his friend, Benjamin grows increasingly fond of and reliant upon Louis.
Lost and Found is a wonderful bit of historical romance fiction. If you enjoy enemies to lovers, I think you’ll enjoy this because of how cool Louis acts towards Benjamin—even when it’s patent that all Louis wants is Benjamin’s undivided attention.
I also got hooked on the substantial thread about Benjamin’s missing memories. At first, I thought Benjamin was just being coy about not remembering, but as the fuzzy or incomplete (or just plain lacking) memories persist as an element in the story, I began to understand the significance. It was obvious that Benjamin suffers from some kind of amnesia, but we learn it’s caused by PTSD (“shellshock” in the period). What was poignantly ambiguous is whether it was the trauma of war itself (the actual shells going off) or the destruction they wrought that affected Benjamin more profoundly. There are slight nods to the effects of PTSD, such as Benjamin jumping at the sound of a car backfiring, but we eventually learn the depth of the problem and it all ties to Elias. I love the suspense that Elias embodies. Is he alive and avoiding all things related to the war (including fellow soldier and childhood friend, Benjamin)? Is he actively avoiding Benjamin soecifically? Was there some unrequited feelings or did Elias fall in kove with someone else (he may be bisexual, maybe he found a wife)? Or maybe Elais isn’t missing, but dead?
I think there are also more subtle ways Elias affects the action, too. For example, Benjamin eventually discovers Louis is attracted to men and even spots Louis on what could be considered a date. Benjamin, however, never seems put off by this information. I think this is because somewhere in his psyche, Benjamin remembers he is like Louis in that regard. Regardless, Benjamin ends up being drawn to Louis and although there is a touch of “but we’re both men!” sentiment, seems to quite easily come to recognize and act on his growing attraction to Louis. I think it also helps that Louis adopts something of a cavalier attitude towards the whole affair…as well he might, considering one of Louis’ defense mechanisms is to downplay the idea that lovers of the same sex could develop deep connections to one another.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this post-war romance. The mix of Benjamin rediscovering painful, life-altering memories tempered with finding new love was a bittersweet mix. On the one hand, I was hoping Benjamin would find his old flame, but as he and Louis continued to trade barbs and learn more about each other (and themselves), the more I wanted them to give into their emotions. I would recommend this story to anyone who likes historical pieces, international stories, stories about disability, and stories about overcoming personal difficulties to find happiness.