Rating: 5 stars
Synopsis: Many years ago, Anthony Peardew broke a promise. The only promise he has ever made. In atonement, he begins to carefully collect a hotchpotch of objects that have been lost, in the firm belief that they have a significance to someone, somewhere. When Anthony dies, he leaves the collection to his assistant Laura. Adrift in a comfortable but unadventurous existence, Laura finds a new purpose in the monumental task of reuniting the lost objects with their owners. Her quest to fulfil Anthony’s legacy of love makes for a moving tale of wonder, compassion, triumph and the infinite endurance of human connections.
When I first picked up ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’, I was dubious about whether I was going to enjoy it, for two reasons. One: the first few pages are plastered with rave reviews, which I find can often raise my expectations excessively only to be disappointed. Two: it was a very well-intended birthday present from my parents, but I had a sneaky suspicion they only chose it because it had pretty flowers on the front cover! In short, I was expecting something fluffy, a source of transient pleasure but in no way memorable. However, I became absolutely enchanted with Ruth Hogan’s novel. It made me realise how many seriously dark, bleak stories I have been reading recently. Sometimes a book just seems to come upon you at exactly the right time – something genuinely moving yet hopeful and uplifting was exactly what I needed!
The first thing that struck me about ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ is that it is a book of balances. It is emotional without being sappy, ambitious but not condescending, and manages to remain endearingly quirky without straying into the realm of odd. The writing is almost poetic, with a touching appreciation of beauty that shines through on every page. It feels as if Hogan is writing just for the sheer joy of it.
Although the plot has been criticised for stretching credibility, for me it seemed to complement the lyrical, whimsical writing style. I felt that the story is not meant to be rooted in reality but in our imaginations. Another unique aspect of the novel is the massive range of perspectives included; I especially loved the stories associated with all the collected objects. Some readers seem to have found this chaotic and clamorous, but I believe that it acts as a crucial driver of the plot. In a book that is character-centric, rather than possessing the relentless pacey plot of a thriller, it is quite a feat to make it gripping to read. However, I was engaged the entire way through ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’, and a great part of this was due to the number and variety of stories keeping me intrigued.
Hogan’s characters are sensitively portrayed and tantalisingly real. Forgive the cliché, but my favourite character Eunice – fun, passionate yet simultaneously gentle – is up there with book characters I would most love to meet in real life. Laura also made me laugh out loud at times. Her somewhat dark sense of humour forces readers to confront truths about the safe, bland but ‘comfortable’ aspects of our own existences. The romance she develops throughout the novel is technically a little predictable, but who can begrudge some comfort and, indeed, delight, for the hopeless romantic among us (self-confessed or otherwise)? There is still plenty for those who prefer more complex and enigmatic relationships, particularly in Eunice’s unfulfilled love.
The novel is ambitious in its range, stretching between strangers and across generations, taking us across the full spectrum of emotions from humour to heart-wrenching sadness. Hogan portrays both joy and pain with equal acuteness; it seems every reader will find a poignant observation to identify with. ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ is essentially a novel about humanity – drawn in all of its intensity, confusion, hope and spirit.
P.S. Thanks, Mum and Dad – you did good! 🙂
Not picture perfect, of course not, after what had happened – a life still scarred and cracked and misshapen, but worth living nonetheless.
Read if: you want a quirky, unique and uplifting foray into contemporary literary fiction.
Cover image courtesy of Goodreads.
Enjoyed The Keeper of Lost Things? I would highly recommend Room by Emma Donoghue.
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