It starts with a biscuit tin. A biscuit tin full of cremated remains that is travelling alone on a train from London to Brighton. A captivating introduction to some of the lost items which play centre stage in this gently moving debut novel by Ruth Hogan
Entrusted with her employers, Anthony Peardrews incidental finds after his death, recently divorced Laura is embarking on the next chapter of her life. It is now full of some fairly manageable challenges involving a gifted mansion and a new love conquest. Anthony’s lost objects collection became about as a result of a gift given to his wife, which was lost before her passing, but his hoarded collection hidden behind a locked study is left to Laura to track down the original owners.
The novel time slips between the present day with Laura and her new life and 1974 onwards where we are introduced to the amiable Eunice and gregarious Bomber. In amongst this is Hogans best prose, the vignettes surrounding each lost item, each one a pictorial and poetic delve into a moment of a life, belongings forever lost in a moments haste or mishap.
The story of Eunice and Bomber is a rare treat. A beautiful portrait of unrequited love and a blossoming friendship that is nurtured until the final promise is delivered. Although throughout their story One May feel a sense of urgency to leap forward for the big reveal; the raison d’être.
The story of Laura is less appealing and rarely satisfying. It reads more like a seperate novel; a flimsy melancholic beach read at times with a tedious female protagonist not really overcoming any hurdles, not even her lack of self esteem. The relationship with generic hunky gardener unfolds with only a couple of hurdles and the spooky element which arrived a little late, didn’t sit comfortably within the rom com serving. The aptly named Sunshine is the only character that adds a glimmer of originality to an otherwise colourless cast.
Essentially the purpose and main theme of the novel was to to explore the notion of the value of objects and the story something inanimate can tell. Clearly not a a theme that could fill a whole novel.
Anthony Peardrew spent his life collecting and Laura was left with the not so arduous task of reuniting the lost things with their original owners. A website was set up somewhere between Laura flitting over her frothy feelings for hunky gardener and ending up in bed with him. The owners of the lost items seemed to arrive quite easily and with no explanations of why one might be performing a google search for a child’s green hair bobble misplaced many years before.
However, if unlike me you can look past the incidentals that raise a few narrative concerns and one or two insipid characters and you’re headed straight to escapism street. Aside from the clunky way the novel attempts to weave itself together, this book has a good heart, great intentions, some examples of some beautiful writing with a good attempt to create a unique genre; one that is a marvellous mix of magic and tenderness . Ultimately this book shows promise from a first time author and I’ll be watching out for her next book.