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review 2017-06-03 14:03
A gentle read for those who love books set in Britain, short-stories and Blithe Spirit
The Keeper of Lost Things: A Novel - Cecily Ruth Hogan

Thanks to NetGalley and Two Roads for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although I am not sure this is ‘the feel-good novel of the year’ I’d have to agree it is a feel-good novel, although perhaps not for everybody.

The novel tells many stories, although it tells two in more detail, those of Anthony and Laura (later of Laura and her new family) and Eunice and Bomber. Although those stories are separated by forty years, they are parallel in many ways: an older man who puts an advertisement for an assistant, a younger woman —very young in Eunice’s case— who ends up becoming a personal friend of the man and whose life ends up enmeshed and entangled with that of her employer, both men’s work relates to literature (Anthony is a fairly successful writer of short stories and Bomber is a publisher), both males die leaving some sort of legacy to these women (and also asking them to fulfil their final wishes). As we read on, we might suspect that the relationship between these two stories runs deeper than at first appears, but it is not confirmed until very close to the end.

There are other important elements in the novel, which functions also as a collection of short stories, as Anthony, after experiencing a terrible loss, started to collect lost things, cataloguing them and using his study for safe keeping, in an attempt at recovering something he had lost himself. Throughout the novel, there are stories about those objects (written in italics so it is easy to differentiate them to the rest) interspersed with the two main stories. We are told, later in the book, that Anthony used those objects as inspiration for several collections of short stories, but the novel allows for several possible interpretations of what these stories really are. Are they imaginary stories? Are they the real stories behind the objects? If they are imaginary short-stories who has written them? Anthony? Somebody else? Each reader can choose whatever explanation s/he prefers and I’m sure there are more possibilities.

I mentioned the two main stories that frame the novel and the short stories within. Each chapter is told (in the third person) from one of the characters’ point of view (mostly Laura or Eunice) and this is is clearly indicated, as it is the year, because Eunice and Bomber’s story develops from the 1970s up to the current days. We get to know his family and follow his father’s illness (Alzheimer’s) that unfortunately later also afflicts Bomber himself. There are comments on movies of the period; there is the wonderful relationship with Bomber’s parents, the two dogs that share his life and an unrequited and impossible love story. Ah, and Bomber’s sister, Portia, her awful behaviour and her even worse attempts at getting her brother to publish one of her rip-offs of well-known and loved classics, that make for hilarious reading, especially for authors and book lovers. I must confess that, perhaps because their story develops over time and it has none of the paranormal elements added to the other, I particularly warmed to it. I found the depiction of the dementia sufferers (both father and son) touching, humorous and bittersweet, and although we don’t get to know Eunice well (other than through her devotion to Bomber and his life-work), she is a character easy to like and some of her actions make us cheer her on.

Laura’s story is that of somebody lost, perfectly in keeping with Anthony’s life mission. She made some questionable decisions when she was younger, married too young and her knight in shining armour turned up to be anything but. She is very insecure and full of self-doubt and that makes her a less likeable character as she pushes people away rather than risk being rejected, but she is also the one who has to change more and work harder to get out of her shell. Sunshine, a young neighbour, Down’s syndrome, also shares her point of view with the reader at times and becomes a member of the family, although she has her own too. She is less hindered by concern about what others’ might think, or what is right and wrong, and she has a special connection (not sure ‘power’ is the right word) with the objects and with the paranormal elements that later appear in the novel. Fred, the gardener, is the love interest, handsome and kind, but he seems to be there to provide the romance and second chance more than anything else, and he is not very well developed.

I’ve mentioned the paranormal elements. There is a ghost in the house and that takes up a fair amount of the book as Laura keeps trying to work out how to make things right. I am not sure this added much to the story but references to Blithe Spirit (that is being performed by an amateur theatrical group in the neighbourhood) put an emphasis on the effect the writer might have been aiming for (each reader can decide how well it works for them).

This is a well-written novel, with effective descriptions of objects, locations and people. There are elements of chick-lit (the descriptions of Laura’s disastrous date, her chats with her friend…), romantic touches, some elements of mystery, plenty of loss, death and second chances, a fair bit about literature… The whole feeling of the story is somewhat old-fashioned (and very British. I’ve lost count of how many ‘lovely cups of tea’ are prepared and drunk during the novel, and although that is partly in jest, yes, there is a fair amount of repetition, foreshadowing and signposting, perhaps unnecessary in this kind of story). Some of the references, including songs and films, will be lost on the younger generations. Everything is fairly gentle; even the bad characters (Portia) are only moderately nasty and they are the object of fun rather than being truly evil. There are gossip and misunderstandings but nothing really awful happens. No gore details, no huge surprises, no hot sex (I think you’ll have to buy Portia’s stories of Hotter Potter for that), and even technology only appears by the backdoor (people send text messages and a laptop and a website  appear towards the end, but this is not a book where characters follow mother trends).

Funnily enough, a publisher (rival of Anthony) sums up what the books he publishes should be like, thus:

I know what normal, decent people like, and that’s good, straightforward stories with a happy ending where the baddies get their comeuppance, the guy gets the girl and the sex isn’t too outré.

The structure of the novel and some of the short-stories are not at all like that, but the spirit behind it perhaps it and its charm might be lost on some readers who prefer more action and adventures and a more modern style of writing.

In summary, a gentle read, bittersweet, with plenty of stories for those who love short stories, of particular interest to lovers of books and movies set in Britain, stories about writers, the publishing world and women’s stories. It has sad moments and funny ones but it is unlikely to rock your world.

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review 2017-06-02 17:06
Rezension | Mr. Peardews Sammlung der verlorenen Dinge von Ruth Hogan
Mr. Peardews Sammlung der verlorenen Dinge: Roman - Cecily Ruth Hogan,Marion Balkenhol

Beschreibung

 

Wenn der Schriftsteller Mr. Anthony Peardew unterwegs ist, hält er immer Ausschau nach verlorenen Gegenständen. Diese sammelt und archiviert er in seinem viktorianischen Haus das von einem wundervollen Rosengarten umgeben ist. Sein Ziel ist es, die verlorenen Gegenstände an seine Besitzer zurückzugeben, in der Hoffnung somit gebrochene Herzen (wie seines) zu heilen. Mr. Peardew ist nicht nur Sammler verlorener Dinge, sondern hat selbst vor Jahren etwas verloren, dass ihm sehr viel bedeutet und ihn mit seiner großen Liebe verbindet, die bereits viel zu früh verstarb.

 

Anthony Peardew ist jedoch schon alt und baut körperlich immer stärker ab. Seine besondere Aufgabe bleibt somit unerfüllt. Doch Anthony hat vorgesorgt indem er seine Haushälterin und Erbin Laura damit betreut, die Besitzer der verlorenen Dinge ausfindig zu machen. Keine leichte Aufgabe, denn außer den erfundenen Geschichten zu einzelnen Gegenständen hat Laura keine Anhaltspunkte.

 

Meine Meinung

 

Ruth Hogan erzählt in ihrem Debütroman „Mr. Peardews Sammlung der verlorenen Dinge“ eine hübsche und leicht romantische Geschichte die zum träumen einlädt. Die Covergestaltung ist wirklich sehr gut gelungen, durch den lilafarbenen Leinenbuchrücken der im Kontrast zu dem türkisfarbenen Einband steht, und das glänzende Coverbild ist das Buch auf jeden Fall schon mal ein Augenschmaus.

 

Das Setting des viktorianischen Anwesens Padua, das eine geheimnisvolle und mystische Atmosphäre mit sich bringt sowie die Geschichte über einen Schriftsteller, der verlorene Dinge einsammelt, archiviert und Geschichten dazu erfindet, hat mir sehr gut gefallen. Zudem mochte ich das Storytelling von Ruth Hogan sehr gerne, denn zum einen wird die Geschichte aus der Gegenwart erzählt und zum anderen taucht man parallel dazu vierzig Jahre in die Vergangenheit.

 

"Eunice verliebe sich auf der Stelle in den Mann. Körperlich war er eher unauffällig: mittelgroß, mittlere Statur, hellbraunes Haar, angenehmes Gesicht, zwei Augen, zwei Ohren, eine Nase, ein Mund. Zusammen genommen ergaben diese einzelnen Bestandteile jedoch auf magische Weise ein Meisterstück." (Seite 25)

 

Aus dem Jahre 1974 bekommt man eine gefühlvolle Geschichte über den Verleger Bomber und seine Assistentin Eunice erzählt, die von Liebe, Freundschaft und Demenz handelt. Obwohl dieser Handlungsstrang neben der Haupthandlung etwas blass wirkt, hat dieser einiges dazu beigetragen die Geschichte in sich abzurunden. Zudem möchte ich die liebevoll gezeichneten Charaktere hervorheben, denn ich fand schnell einen Zugang zu den rundum symphatischen Protagonisten.

 

Besonders stark ist mir Anthonys lebhafte Nachbarin Sunshine ans Herz gewachsen. Sie leidet am Down Syndrom und strahlt jede Menge Lebensfreude aus, die regelrecht ansteckend ist. Außerdem spricht Sunshines feinfühliges Wesen und kleinere sprachlichen Auswirkungen für die Besonderheit von Menschen mit Down Syndrom. Ich fand es einfach herrlich wie Laura und Co. mit Sunshine umgehen und das einem solch einzigartigen Charakter eine Bühne geboten wird. Schon alleine deshalb sollte man dieses Buch lesen!

 

"Lautlosigkeit ist eine gefährliche Sache. Stille ist absolut solide und zuverlässig, Lautlosigkeit aber ist erwartungsvoll, wie eine bedeutungsschwangere Pause; sie fordert das Unheil geradezu heraus, wie ein loser Faden, der darum bettelt, dass man an ihm zieht." (Seite 53)

 

So wundervoll die Geschichte von „Mr. Peardews Sammlung der verlorenen Dinge“ auch ist, so komme ich leider nicht umhin auch einen Kritikpunkt anzubringen. Ich fand den Plot viel zu vorhersehbar, man konnte lediglich die Puzzleteilchen dabei beobachten wie sie an die richtige Stelle fallen, überraschende Wendungen – Fehlanzeige!

 

Fazit

 

Ein Roman der vor allem durch das tolle Setting und eine poetisch-romantische Geschichte begeistert.

Source: www.bellaswonderworld.de/rezensionen/rezension-mr-peardews-sammlung-der-verlorenen-dinge-von-ruth-hogan
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review 2017-05-17 10:45
Schöner Roman, aber nicht, was ich erwartet habe
Mr. Peardews Sammlung der verlorenen Dinge: Roman - Cecily Ruth Hogan,Marion Balkenhol

Der Klappentext und die Leseprobe versprachen einen skurrilen Roman rund um eine außergewöhnliche Sammlung von Fundstücken. Der Schriftsteller Anthony Peardew verliert ein Medaillon, das ihm Therese, die früh verstorbene Liebe seines Lebens, geschenkt hat. Er fängt an, obsessiv alle verlorenen Gegenstände zu sammeln, die er draußen findet. Das reicht von Haargummis über Schirme bis hin zu einer Keksdose voll menschlicher Asche. Er verstaut jedes Fundstück ordentlich beschriftet in seinem Haus. Als Anthony stirbt, erbt seine Assistentin und Haushälterin Laura sein Haus und seinen Besitz. Damit fällt ihr auch die riesige Sammlung zu. In seinem Testament verfügt Anthony, dass Laura versuchen soll, die Gegenstände ihren ursprünglichen Besitzern zurückzugeben.

 

Für mich klang „Mr. Peardews Sammlung der verlorenen Dinge“ nach einer charmanten, aber ungewöhnlichen Geschichte. Ich habe humorvolle Versuche, die Besitzer der Fundstücke zu ermitteln, und schräge Begegnungen erwartet – all das gekoppelt mit der Selbstfindung Lauras, die abgesehen von ihrer Arbeit bei Anthony nicht gerade glücklich mit ihrem Leben war.

 

Letztendlich tritt für mein Empfinden die Sammlung ziemlich schnell in den Hintergrund. Aus einer spannenden Idee wird ein ziemlich konventioneller Liebesroman. Die Geschichte an sich hat Herz, aber auch eine ordentliche Portion Kitsch. Die Autorin Ruth Hogan schreibt sehr anschaulich, locker und mitreißend. Mit dem Namen des Titelhelden ist ihr eine tolle Anspielung gelungen, denn im englischen Sprachgebrauch wird das französische „perdu“ (verloren) „Peardew“ ausgesprochen. Ruth Hogan streut zudem immer wieder skurrile Momente in ihre Geschichte ein, bei denen der schwarze englische Humor durchscheint. Diese habe ich sehr genossen. Sie hat zum Teil interessante Charaktere entwickelt, die humorvoll überspitzt und dadurch sehr unterhaltsam sind. Der Roman hat also durchaus seine Vorzüge. Wäre ich mit anderen Erwartungen herangegangen, hätte ich ihn vielleicht etwas mehr genießen können. Irritiert hat mich zudem, dass alle Charaktere ihre diversen Hunde nur mit ungesunden menschlichen Lebensmitteln gefüttert haben.

 

Neben der Geschichte über Anthony, Laura und den Gärtner Freddy gibt es einen zweiten Handlungsstrang rund um den Verleger Bomber und seine Haushälterin Eunice. Erst am Ende wird klar, wie beide Geschichten zusammenhängen. Das ist der Autorin gut gelungen und es entsteht ein etwas schmalziger, aber bewegender Moment zwischen Laura und Eunice.

 

Wer gerne Liebesromane liest, wird an diesem Buch seine Freude haben. Hier stehen drei verschiedene Beziehungen im Mittelpunkt, die alle komplett unterschiedlich verlaufen und ein sehr unterschiedliches Ende haben.

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review 2016-11-23 09:19
The Keeper of Lost Things: A Novel - Cecily Ruth Hogan

Author Anthony Peardew has been haunted by a broken promise for forty years. Compelled to collect lost items in the hope of finding their owners his study in Padua, his home. But as he realises his life is drawing to a close, he also knows that he must pass on the task of reuniting the items with the people who lost them. The perfect person is Laura, his assistant and housekeeper, who finds herself the new owner of Padua and its contents. Eager to carry out Anthony’s wishes but overwhelmed with the task she is soon aided by Freddy, the gardener and Sunshine, a lonely girl with special gifts. Unbeknownst to her it may be that Anthony has left her the greatest gift anyone could have. And whilst she helps lost things find their lost people, she may just find herself in the process.

 

There is something slightly magical about this book. It casts its spell over the reader, drawing them into the story, so that you are soon caught up in the tale of Anthony and his lost things. This is a book that keeps calling to you to read if you have to unfortunately break off for any reason.

 

The story is populated with a wonderful array of characters, with not one out of place. Laura had arrived at Padua years earlier, looking for an escape from the tattered remains of an unhappy marriage. With Anthony and the house she finds peace and a surrogate family. As the story develops so does Laura, becoming less embittered, less selfish and more sure that she has some self worth and is deserving of happiness.

 

Freddy, the gardener, awakens feelings in Laura that she though were long gone, but also provides friendship and laughter, helping her with her task. Then there is Sunshine, who as her name suggests, brings light and warmth to the lives of her new friend Laura and Freddy. Sunshine is a special girl, with unique gifts and her ability to say, simply, what other people find difficult to vocalise helps Laura in unexpected ways. Laura and Freddy help to counteract the bullies who have marred Sunshine’s life and give her purpose.

 

There is a parallel story running throughout, that of Edie and Bomber, spanning forty years. Edie’s story is one of unrequited yet sustaining love, of her deep friendship with Bomber. Throughout her tale there are glimpses to show how her story and Anthony’s story merge together, whether that is serendipitously or coincidentally is open to question.

 

The tale weaves between the two, showing how Anthony and Edie’s lives become inextricably linked, through coincidence or cosmic design. It requires some suspension of disbelief but is done in such a charming way that you could almost be left wishing real life was a little more like this book. It is a ghost story, a story of love, and of sadness and of the impact physical things can have on a person’s life.

 

The story shows the history behind some of Anthony’s lost things, some happy, many sad, others funny. All snapshots into other people’s lives and the significance, or not, of the physical objects gathered through life. They are the muse for Anthony’s popular short stories. Perhaps life does imitate art for the author herself is a collector of lost things and inspired her novel and the cover features some of the treasures she has unearthed over the years.

 

Don’t expect a mad dash of a story for this is a gently told tale. Sometimes that is just what is needed, gentle escapism. A lovely story, perfect to curl up with on a long winter evening. I look forward to reading more from Ruth Hogan in the future.

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review 2016-10-09 00:00
The Keeper of Lost Things
The Keeper of Lost Things - Ruth Hogan The Keeper of Lost Things - Ruth Hogan

A special thank you to Edelweiss and William Morrow for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Forty years ago, author Anthony Peardew loses a keepsake from his fiancee, Therese, and on that very same day she dies. As a result, Anthony becomes the keeper of lost things. He picks up objects he finds, random things people leave behind, or have dropped, and writes stories about them. As he nears the end of his life, Anthony continues to catalogue the items and worries that he has not lived up to his undertaking of reuniting the items with their owners.

Laura, Anthony's assistant, is a divorced middle-aged lonely woman that unbeknownst to her is one of Anthony's lost things. He bequeaths everything to her, including the daunting task of his life's mission of reconciling the lost items to where they belong. She moves into the house and with the help of the gardener Freddy, and the neighbour's daughter Sunshine, embarks on a remarkable journey of self-discovery, new beginnings, and of completing a final request.

The characters are rich and warm and are all lost objects in one way or another. Hogan weaves them together in a wonderful tale. I absolutely adored this book and felt like I had lost a friend when it was over.

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