Two Roads | 2017 | 309p | Review copy | Buy the book
When Laura takes on the role of assistant to Anthony Peardew, an elderly author of short stories, she soon discovers that she has entered a house of wonders. Anthony collects lost things, storing the little bits and pieces in his study, their provenance carefully recorded on labels. His dearest wish is that one day these items can be returned to their owners. The value of such treasures has little to do with their financial worth. It has everything to do with the memories that they contain. Even a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, an umbrella or a glove can be priceless in the hands of the person who wants them back so badly. But Anthony’s death makes his wish an impossibility. And so he hands it on to Laura, leaving her his house. But with the house comes far more than a collection of lost things, including the opportunity, gifted to her by Anthony, for Laura to find herself.
Eunice has found her dream job. She works for Bomber, a publisher with more than his fair share of eccentricities (not to mention an appalling sister called Portia), and Bomber is to become the great love of Eunice’s life.
I fell in love with The Keeper of Lost Things from its extraordinary, curious opening sentence. Instantly, I knew that I was in safe hands as I found myself immersed in the two parallel stories – one taking place in a house called Padua, Anthony’s beautiful home and now Laura’s, and one in the company of Eunice and Bomber and their beloved and spoilt dogs. If I had to choose between these two stories, I couldn’t. One knows from the very beginning that these two worlds, one of which covers forty years of time, will finally converge and waiting for them to do so is exquisitely tantalising.
To call Ruth Hogan’s writing beautiful does it no justice at all. The prose is elegant and so rich in colour, but it also light and enchanting. Interspersed throughout are little short stories which tell the story behind some of the lost things in the collection. These stay on the mind. They are so gently painted that it took a while for this reader at least to realise that these stories are not entirely as you’d expect. There is an increasing melancholy and pain in these tales, which belies the charm and hope of the narrative in which they are set. It’s this that reminds us that The Keeper of Lost Things isn’t just a novel about reunion and love – although it most certainly embraces these things – but it is also about loss and grief. It isn’t just objects that can be lost. People are lost, too.
And the people in The Keeper of Lost Things are astonishing! How I loved them! Perhaps most of all Sunshine, the girl who lives next door to Padua. The way that she plays with language is superb, in quite the opposite way to Portia who tortures words in her novels. The Keeper of Lost Things is worth reading for Portia alone! But all of the characters, whether human or canine, are to be loved. They are drawn by Ruth Hogan with such tenderness and care. And the setting of Padua, with its gorgeous garden (and gardener) is perfect.
The Keeper of Lost Things is a warm, compassionate and witty novel. It cares for the reader as much as it does for its characters. At times it made me both laugh and cry. It is indeed a feel good novel – it certainly did me good – but there are shadows hiding in its corners, which enrich it. I’m so very glad I read it.