Friday, 10 November 2017

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Things

On the whole, I'm fascinated by remarkable debut novels; particularly when they are both complicated and beautifully written. Ruth Hogan definitely achieves both of things with this book; the title and cover artwork are incredibly eye-catching, encouraging you to notice it whenever and wherever it sits on a shelf. Anthony Peardew has a fantastic and extensive collection of lost things. An author whose life was deeply affected by grief and loss, collecting lost items became a vice of sorts; he also began to write short stories based on the items that he collected. He carefully labelled all of his collection individually with dates, times and locations in the hope that one day he would be able to reunite the items with their owners. Unfortunately, old age does make it difficult and so he makes plans to leave his house and his collection to Laura, his housekeeper. Naturally, this results in a variety of gossip that puts poor Laura at the centre of attention in the village, but what comes with the deal is that she begins the process of returning the lost things to their rightful owners.

Anthony leaves her a letter explaining all of this, as well as suggesting that she befriends a neighbour but instead her neighbour asks Laura to be friends. Of all of the characters, I fell in love with Sunshine. Her namesake is the perfect representation of the happiness she brings out in those around her. Alongside Freddy, the gardener and Carrot, a rescue dog, the companions start creating a website depicting all of the lost things and their stories in the hope that people will begin to claim them and therefore bring some happiness to Andrew's memory. Padua, now Laura's home (thanks to Andrew) and forever her sanctuary after escaping an unhappy marriage, also houses the love and loss of Andrew and Therese, who the reader learns more about as the story progresses. Sunshine, seems to understand things that both Freddy and Laura don't, about Therese, the lost things and even the companions themselves. They discover the reason behind Anthony's collection and attempt to seek out the item to no avail, although they do begin having success with the lost things, even adding their own items (at Sunshine's suggestion) to the collection as time goes on.

There is also a parallel narrative side to the story; one that describes the loving friendship of two people, Eunice and Bomber. These two have a fantastic relationship, one that can only be seen as the best kind, although sadly without the romance that Eunice craved. Throughout the novel, the reader witnesses their relationship develop from the tender age of 21 until old age, alongside some tragedies that happen along the way. Their relationship is actually a complicated one as they work together at a Publishers and remain best friends in all areas of their lives, throwing off taunts from Bomber's immature sister, watching his father struggle with Dementia and his mother die, whilst never forgetting to enjoy themselves through watching films or going to Brighton together. Bomber's dogs, Douglas and Baby Jane also add to the story; both rescue dogs and eventually laid to rest with their owner, were great additions to the plot, often being described in such detail that they were super imaginable. Bomber and Eunice's shared love of dogs and the simple things in life really accentuated how beautiful their friendship really was.

Eventually the two time-lines overlap, through the present and that too, is a beautiful moment. All of the characters have their own little mannerisms and opinions, yet each one seems completely realistic, almost like someone that you could know in your own life. Overall, it was a story of broken people, each one of them had some kind of pain that they were going through, as well as love, which was what kept them alive. The two stories were really well interwoven, which is something that was unexpected right until the end; all of the main characters from each story were lovable, but not perfect as their faults were clearly laid out. The four legged friends were lovely additions, Baby Jane in particular seemed to take parts of the novel into her own with her protection of her loved ones. It was lovely to read a story which put a young girl with Down's Syndrome at the forefront of it in a good light; Sunshine was an extraordinary character who really worked well alongside her companions. Her character was written sensitively and I felt she was the best part of the novel. This novel was a pleasure to read, it captured so many emotions and themes whilst flowing beautifully; keeping my engagement with every turn of a page. I also loved the simplistic nature of the lost things, the idea that everything has a story, regardless of how mundane it looks from the outside. Highly recommend reading this book.

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