Here’s a confession. Most of my skills as a bookseller are down to having a good memory. I remember where I last saw a particular book in the store or odd little facts about authors and so on and I can retrieve these otherwise useless facts from my brain when needed to help customers. Although, interestingly, this doesn’t seem to apply to pieces of paper and stuff written on them. If I’m ever famous and do one of those ’60-second’ interviews my answer to the question ‘what phrase do you use most often’ will be ‘where did I put that bit of paper?’ Funny, isn’t it, how the we use the word ‘memory’ both for recalling things from our past and for remembering to do things at some point in the future? Anyway, I digress (which is my other option for the most used phrase question…).
Ruth Hogan’s book is about memory, in a way. Author Anthony Peardew tragically mislaid a relatively cheap memento given to him by his fiancée – the tragedy being that he lost it on the day she died in an accident. In memory of Therese, his fiancée, Anthony goes out of his way to pick up items lost by others. His original intent is to restore them to their owners but, since he is an author of short stories, he instead he creates little vignettes of items and their imagined owners. He also seems to collect slightly lost people – a gardener, a young neighbour and Laura, a young woman brought low by a difficult marriage and subsequent divorce, who becomes his assistant. Laura is starting to rebuild her life when Anthony dies, leaving her his home and a mission to restore all the lost things to their rightful places (and people). She is reluctant to put much effort into this until she realises there is some kind of spirit in the house which will not let her rest with the job undone.
This is a lovely book – it has characters I cared about (but with flaws and foibles), a slightly quirky plot and, as a bonus, lots of the stories Anthony wrote about the Lost Things are included. We often remember people via objects which we connect with them and, just as often, we recall our own pasts in the same way. We are just not always so good at remembering where these objects are – it gave me a warm feeling to read about Laura, and the friends she makes through her connection to Anthony and his collection of lost objects, helping others to regain those mementoes and those memories.