New Year. Ah… the feeling of starting afresh, resetting and confirming your goals, focusing on yourself and the year ahead, and stuffing your face with food. Nothing quite like it is there?
How did you take your first steps into 2018? Mine was a casual and laid back affair. A wonderful home cooked three course meal followed by highly competitive group games of Mario Kart, half an episode of 8 out of 10 cats does countdown and sipping on wine in a half-asleep haze. A midnight ‘Oh guys, it’s New Year!’ marked the occasion, rather than the usual wail of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (that no-one really knows the words to or why we do it), followed by the rather odd tradition of opening the front door and heating half the street just to ‘let the New Year in’. Nope, none of that, and boy was I glad.
What I did did do was set goals and resolutions to myself, something that I genuinely enjoy doing, I feel that it calms me and sets a time frame and a plan of action. What I didnt try to do was to make plans about drinking less or dieting. Well, I did, but thankfully I didn’t write them down, I think I knew in my heart that they wouldn’t last. My diet lasted a day, my gym kick a week and ‘Dry January’ lasted 12 days in total before I succumbed to a glass of wine and a weekend of Jagerbombs, a sore head and a very blurry version of events. Hmm, maybe next year.
My gorgeous best friends and Mum bought me a grand total of 6 books this Christmas (I’m a lucky girl to have such wonderful women in my life!). One of my New Year goals is to read at least 8 books this year, so these 6 will be sure to get me started! I may not blog about all 8, as in between my blog posts I do read other books. I think it’s important that we expand our horizons not only in the frequency at which we read, but also with the genre that we read too. Often the other books that I read are non-fiction psychology books or historical text books. What are your kind of books? Do you have a genre?
So, if you’re sitting comfortably, whilst the wind howls, the candle flickers and the rain hits my window, I’d like to tell you about my first read, given to me by my oldest friend Danielle this Christmas, and one that has truly warmed my heart from the chills of winter.
THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS, BY RUTH HOGAN
The first thing that caught my eye about this book when I unwrapped it on Christmas morning was the beauty of the cover illustrations. It’s a rose garden, but as you’ll see when you discover this read for yourself, the ‘lost things’ hide amongst it (can you spy the key?). As you’ll know from my instagram posts, I am a self-confessed ‘Blue Cover Lover’, and I think this particular one is a thing of beauty.
This novel is a debut for Ruth Hogan, and as I found out by reading the Author’s detail at the end of the book, it is very loosely based around her own life. I have to say I do love method acting and writing, you tend to get a more realistic view from the artist or author.
‘Meet the Keeper of Lost Things…Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.
Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to reunite the thousands of lost objects with their rightful owners.
But the final wishes of the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’, have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…’
Firstly, Hogan used the word serendipitous. As an English language nerd, I love a good long word on a blurb, it entices me. I’d just about stuffed my turkey dinner down when I opened up the front cover on Christmas day, I just could not wait to start this one any longer.
We start with Chapter 1.. ‘Charles Bramwell Brockley was travelling alone and without a ticket on the 14.42 from London Bridge to Brighton.’ Ah, another ticket dodger I think to myself. I’ve seen plenty of them on my travels, hiding in the toilets and running along the carriages. Usually on the expensive train from Hull to London. Quickly I learn however (much to my amusement and a real signature of the Author’s wit..) that Charles is in fact travelling in a biscuit tin. Charles and the biscuit tin are sadly lost, left on the train with no-one to continue his journey. Until a kind soul picks him up and takes him home.
‘Huntley and Palmers Biscuit tin containing cremation remains? Found, sixth carriage from the front, 14.42 train from London Bridge to Brighton. Deceased Unknown. God bless and rest in Peace’.
That kind soul is Anthony Peardew. Anthony is a writer, who’s home goes by the name of Padua. Anthony, we learn from the above, is the Keeper of Lost Things. He finds and stores things he has found deemed lost, carefully ensuring that he labels up where and when he found them, so that one day they may be returned to their rightful owner. Anthony is an established author, and husband to his late wife Therese. Anthony writes about the Lost Things he has found, much to the dismay of his publisher, as Anthony’s work has changed significantly since his wife’s death.
We are then introduced to Laura, Anthony’s assistant, a divorced young woman, plagued with tales of woe in love, with a witty, down to earth character, one I could understand and relate to.
In Chapter 3 we are taken back in time, May 1974 to be exact, and introduced to Eunice. The chapter opens with arguably one of my most favourite lines in any book..
‘She had decided on the cobalt blue trilby. Her grand-mother had once told her that one could blame ugliness on one’s genes and ignorance on one’s education, but there was absolutely no excuse whatsoever for being dull.’
Oh how true! Dull people confuse me. You have one life, so I say live it happily, passionately and without apology!
We continue. In this Chapter, Eunice is heading off to an interview to be a publisher’s assistant, the publisher we would be introduced to is Bomber. On Eunice’s way to meet Bomber, she notices a tall man checking his watch, waiting for someone who was late. On her exit from the interview (within which she secures the job and falls for the sadly will-never-be-interested Bomber), at the very same corner she finds a small round object in the gutter, pockets it and takes it home.
My first air of confusion was about how these two very different time periods would intermingle. I was reading through the novel and could see no link for a long time, as the time periods so apart. Anthony’s novel ends up on Bomber’s desk just once, but sadly is thrown by Bomber’s malicious and up tight sister Portia, before it can be viewed.
As the book travels further in time, we meet Freddy, the gardener to Anthony, who tends to the rose gardens that Anthony and Therese loved. Anthony sadly passes in the novel, and leaves all to Laura, who inherits Padua. Anthony asks Laura in a letter prior to his death to ensure that the Lost Things are returned to their rightful owners.
Laura then befriends Sunshine, a 19 year old from across the street with ‘Dancing Drome’. The novel takes on a very warm approach, mostly evolving from the love that the character of Sunshine brings. Her main role in the story is to keep everyone in check in the house, make ‘the lovely cup of tea’ for visitors, and to help Laura with the task left by Anthony with her special gift. Sunshine is one of my favourite characters in this book, I feel that Hogan has really developed her characters well, truly understanding the joy of Sunshine and expressing her very well through the pages to her readers. Sunshine’s gift is believable and without judgement by the characters, something I treasured and respected.
In the picture of the book above, I was sat at the Humber Bridge, with a cup of Chinese Green Tea (see base of this post for details), at a very important point within the story. I was only there half an hour or so, but did so mostly with a smile on my face. The character had a great effect on the reader in my case, she genuinely ‘shone’ through the pages.
In the few final chapters, as Laura continues with her mission with Sunshine’s help to return the ‘Lost Things’, the two stories running simultaneously through our story begin to interlace, those first few chapters and their meaning become very clear. What I truly loved about this book is that feeling of knowing that fate will happen, it will bring people together if it must, no matter when, how or in what circumstances.
How many times have you found that you were meant to have met people before in your life, and just narrowly missed them? I’ve had multiple instances where people I have met later in life that have grown to become important to me were meant to have bought the house behind where I lived at one point in time, but changed their mind at last minute, or I was meant to be at a party of that mutual friend we didn’t know we already had years ago, but I couldn’t go.. many times I was supposed to have met these people and didn’t until time and fate allowed. Time and fate is a funny old thing, and I’ll never question it’s reasoning, this story only supports it’s being.
In terms of story line, I felt that this was a wonderful tale. There weren’t any gaping plot holes, the story flowed, it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think about things we cannot see. Time, history, life events.
I did feel though that some characters were underdeveloped. The character of Freddy becomes more important as the book goes on, and whilst it made plenty of sense not to develop his character in the beginning, I didn’t feel that we really learnt his true nature or anything of his background as time went on. I know nothing of his family or what else he does apart from be at Padua. In the same breath, whilst Portia was seen as a comical character, we never truly learnt why she was the way in which she was. There was some suggestion of trying to make her brother proud, but it didn’t ring true. So whilst some characters were beautifully developed, others were very shallow and but ghost figures to the tale, where perhaps I should have felt them more strongly through their pages.
Whilst the story of the ‘Lost Things’ is a beautiful tale, I don’t really feel as though the blurb matched the plot. The story wasn’t about lost things and reuniting them with thousands of owners per se, it was about reuniting two very special items to two very special people. I did feel it unrealistic that someone would remember losing a hair bobble in a park many years ago. If I knew where I’d lost my umpteen hair bobbles and bobby pins I wouldn’t have to keep buying them again and again.
I would very strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for an uplifting novel, a light, good-mood read with a strong story line with depth of main characters. If you want the story to be about finding those who have lost their items, this isn’t really the tale we’re told. I liked the book for it’s feel good factor, the connection to spirituality and the themes of love, faith, fate and belonging.
Can’t put it down rating: 5/5
On the cover of this book listed the quote‘This is the first book I read in 2017, and if another as good comes along in the next 12 months, I’ll eat my special gold reviewing spectacles.’ Now I wont go as far to eat bits of metal and plastic and losing my vision, but I have to say I agree.
I haven’t read a book that warms my soul, or that I wanted to pick up and read at every opportunity such as this one, in a very long time. Books with thoroughbred story lines and likeable characters aren’t always that easy to find. It’s a delightful, charming and funny novel that I will remember for years to come. Of course, the fact that the story heavily involves making and drinking cups of tea and many dog characters had nothing to do with it..
As I’ve noted above, I do feel like the story may have gone off track a little from the blurb summary, however the story that we are presented with is a beautiful tale of fate and time, and I’d much rather read that than a story about reuniting people with lost hair bobbles.
Where to buy:
Amazon Paperback: £6.39
Waterstones Paperback: £7.99
WASHED DOWN WITH:
Aldi Mao Feng Green Tea
This is the tea I can be seen drinking by the river. Its punchy and powerful, a little overly peppery though in my opinion, leaves an aftertaste. It’s a tea to kick start my morning, energise my day and clear my head. If you like green tea this may be one for you.
Where to buy:
Aldi: Varies between £1-1.50 for 15 tea bags
TASTE RATING: 3/5