Lost, Found, Remembered.
by Lyra McKee | £12.99 | 9780571351442 | 192 pages | Faber & Faber |02/04/2020
Review by Joanne O’Sullivan
At first, it seems impossible to read Lyra McKee’s memorial publication through anything other than the lens of her tragic, untimely death. Her sharp observations and foresight on Northern Ireland and its issues only serve to underline the acute loss of her contribution to journalism and the shocking nature of murder. While Lost, Found, Remembered does offer insight into her deep understanding and ability to articulate the complexities of the North, the collection is also a reflection of her personal strength and capacity for hope in the most challenging of times.
Extracts from her book The Lost Boys give a brief glimpse of the type of work she had been destined to offer the world. She gives perceptive and simple explanations of the ‘Ceasefire Babies’, the social problems this generation were forced to carry in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement, and the difficulties of demonising figures from both sides of the sectarian divide. It is rare to come across any writer so deeply embedded in a conflict but who speaks with such authority and nuance on its complexities. McKee is right when she asserts that ‘my own take matters’, because her take turns out to be fair, firm and exceptionally well informed. The esteem you feel as a reader for her capable interrogation of such difficult topics is sharply contrasted by the awareness that this is an important voice that has been silenced too soon.
McKee’s writing skills and astute observations aren’t limited to hardship in Northern Ireland. There are plenty contributions in the book that aren’t immediately related to politics, but nonetheless reveal her talent and vocation as a writer. Her poems ‘Time is Running Out’and ‘Awaiting the Snowflakes’ are included in the unpublished works section, and showcase from her early teenage years the formidable talent she was yet to lend to journalism. Most people who have attempted poetry in adolescence have probably looked back on it now and cringed at the sentimental, brooding nature of their efforts. But McKee’s work has held true and is underpinned by a sophisticated sense of empathy and emotion.
Her article ‘Want a career in investigative journalism? Become an entrepreneur’ offers clear and practical advice on how to establish and maintain a career in investigative journalism. Her insistence that ‘you don’t need to start something huge. You just need to start something you love’ and truthful explanations of what the reality of the job involves read as an encouraging and accessible guide to young writers. ‘A Letter to my Fourteen Year Old Self’, ‘The Fight of Your Life’ and ‘How Uncomfortable Conversations Can Save Lives’ are also excellent examples of her empathy coupled with razor-sharp observations. It’s essays such as these that make the book such a powerful memorial publication. There is a generosity of spirit and sense of public service that is obvious in her discussions of the most grave stories, right through to her efforts to guide aspiring writers and offer support to young LGBT people.
While it’s true that it is impossible to begin reading Lost, Found, Remembered without the shadow of Lyra’s heart-breaking death present on every page, by the end we have at least been rewarded with a more detailed picture of this formidable journalist and advocate. The loss of Lyra’s journalism and writing is immeasurable. Being offered such an impressive range of her published and unpublished work underlines the immensity of her death, and the loss of her observations on Ireland’s past and future. The book does more, however, than just record her immense talent and bright future as a journalist. It is a lovingly assembled collection of her work that is a testament to the insightful and compassionate life she lived—one that is worth mourning.
Review by Joanne O’Sullivan