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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 25 January 2018

"The Keeper of Lost Things" by Ruth Hogan

I thought the idea for this book was brilliant. Following her divorce from obnoxious Vince, Laura goes to work for Anthony, an author, who lives in a delightful Victorian villa writing short stories about the lost objects he has found. After he dies leaving her the house she sets to work with a special teenager and the gorgeous gardener to find the people who have lost the collected things and bring them back together. The lost things in the keeper's collection each provoke a short story which helps to showcase the author's ability to write short stories. These puncture the narrative.

The interleaved story is that of Eunice who works for Bomber, a publisher, who loves dogs.

Each character is introduced with a potted biography as if they too are the subjects of short stories. Why waste a good back story?

There is a lot of humour in the book. Perhaps it aspires to be "a searing satire on the saccharine cliches of contemporary commercial fiction" (p 248). But it reminded me more of a sitcom from the 1970s, perhaps Are You Being Served, with the stock characters, the cliched situations and the rather obvious humour. A lot of the time she makes fun of the 'lower orders', especially those who are less well educated. The pretensions of the local pub and its customers are mocked with withering scorn. Sometimes the humour moves from biting to spiteful.

The men in Laura's life illustrate class warfare at it most snobbish. Having had a scholarship to a "local girls' school" (presumably private) Laura met unsuitable Vince who sold cars. She divorces him after he has an affair with "Selina from 'Servicing'.  Her next love is Anthony who writes short stories and lives in a  delightful Victorian house with a study. He is so much more her sort of thing. After he dies she pursues Freddy who is only the gardener (but he used to have an IT business so he's a bit brighter than he seems). Vince is essentially an unpleasant oik and is given the full comeuppance treatment when he rocks up half way through the book. In a few pages he whirls from angry to wheedling to sleazy to desperate to infuriated to sneering; he's clearly unstable and so undignified. His reward, in a scene of pure slapstick, is having rancid milk splashed over his "designer polo shirt" and being hit in the face. These are not nuanced characters.

The author is fond of alliteration:

  • "The house was untainted with the tinnitus of technology" (p 1)
  • "a mousey, middle-aged polyester Pamela to procure her prescription" (p 14)
I suspect I am not the target audience for this book. I like my literature to be challenging, to make me think. Many of the (often 5 star) reviews say that the book is heart-warming, whimsical, romantic and I agree that it is all of these. A great deal of life is represented here: a gay man, a man suffering from Alzheimer's, a Down's syndrome girl (who is psychic) and lots and lots of dogs. There are a lot of lovely cups of tea.

January 2018; 300 pages




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