Anthony Peardew is The Keeper of Lost Things. Forty years ago, his fiancé, Theresa, gave him a token expressing her love, which Anthony loses on the very same day he loses her to an unfortunate accident. He vows to find this cherished token and, in the meantime, also vows to collect all the lost items he can find, from buttons to umbrellas, and return them to their rightful owners. This is easier said than done. As a result, each of these items ends up stored in his study, carefully labelled with the date, time, and place in which he found them. When Anthony dies, he leaves his entire estate, including this massive collection of lost artifacts, to his assistant, Laura, along with a request that she somehow find a way to return each and every item to its rightful owner. Ironically, Anthony’s lost fiancé’s ghost is something Laura also ends up having to guide home.
Anthony and Laura’s story is told simultaneously with another employee/assistant duo who become dear friends, Bomber and Eunice. These two stories share enough similarities that telling them side-by-side makes sense. However, they come together in an even more touching way as the novel unfolds. If two stories weren’t enough, the entire book is sprinkled with various vignettes explaining how several (see novel cover) of the lost items became lost.
I found this novel, Ruth Hogan’s first (2016), to be a breath of fresh air (never thought I’d hear myself use that expression); so much so, that I’ve added two of her characters to my favorites list: Sunshine, Anthony’s quirky young neighbor, who does her best to help Laura with this herculean task, and Bomber’s sister, Portia. The first one delightfully good, the second delightfully bad. I laughed out loud at Portia’s efforts to get Bomber to publish her truly awful writing attempts – the Harry Potter rip-off being especially comical. Even better are Hogan’s canine characters: Donut-loving Douglas, “. . . a small tan-and-white terrier with one ear at half-mast and a brown patch over his left eye . . . seated on a wooden trolley affair with two wheels and pull[ing] himself along by walking with his front legs”; Baby Jane, “. . . who arrived from Battersea Dogs’ Home; a bossy bundle of black and blond velvet. [She] didn’t like donuts. [She] liked Viennese whirls. For a stray, she had expensive tastes.” and Carrot, who was also a rescue dog and more partial to a “breakfast of toast and lightly scrambled eggs.”
The Keeper of Lost Things is uplifting, charming, thought-provoking without being in-your-face preachy, and beautifully written. I’ve seen it described as a “contemporary fairytale”, and I completely agree. I will definitely keep a copy of this book to read again and will be adding Hogan’s other two books, The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes (2018) and Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel (2/2019) to my Want to Read list.
“It was late summer and the roses were beginning to shed their petals like fragile, worn-out ball gowns coming apart at the seams.”
“The frail October sunlight struggled to permeate the trellis of flowers and leaves on the lace panels and the room was dark and stained with shadows. He drew back the lace, shooting a meteorite shower of shimmering dust motes spinning across the room.”