The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

You can read more about Ruth Hogan as she discusses her writing journey In Conversation with Greenacre Writers

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When Anthony Peardew, a British writer, discovers what he believes are human ashes in a Huntley & Palmers biscuit tin, while travelling on the 14.42 from London Bridge to Brighton, he labels the tin with the place and date of its discovery and stores it on a shelf in his study, along with all the other lost items he has collected.

In the clutches of old age Anthony is still grieving for his fiancee, Therese, who died tragically forty years before. On the day she died Anthony also lost the precious medallion his beloved Therese had given him and, although he was unaware of it at the time, losing the medallion provided a means for Anthony to find purpose to his life. Although devastated by Therese’s death he knew it would be wrong for him to throw away the future he had.

He would a million times rather had spent it with her, but to give up when she died would have been the greatest wrong; to throw away the gift that had been snatched from her would have been an act of appalling ingratitude and cowardice.”

So he dedicated his life to collecting lost items in the hope of returning them to their rightful owners, as he had hoped that one day he would be reunited with the lost medallion. As well as meticulously labelling and storing the objects he found, he also created imaginative stories as to the circumstances surrounding their loss. As Anthony finds his health deteriorating he is determined to hand over the responsibility of the lost things to his faithful housekeeper-come-secretary, Laura.

Laura, in the aftermath of divorce from her husband Vince, had been “barely surviving on wine and medication” when she had seen the advertisement for the post of housekeeper/personal assistant as she flicked through a magazine in the doctor’s surgery waiting room while seeking a remedy for her depression.

That had been six years before. Now Laura experienced only comfort and peace at Padua – Anthony’s mansion set in tranquil surroundings – and takes pleasure in caring for the house and her boss. To Laura, Anthony Peardew “was like a comforting constant, like Radio 4, Big Ben and Land of Hope and Glory”. On his death Anthony bequeaths Padua and all that is in it to Laura with the caveat that she continues to attempt to reunite the lost items with their rightful owners.

Interspersed between Anthony and Laura’s narrative the reader is taken back to the 1970’s to follow the lives of Eunice and Bomber to present day. Like Laura, Eunice sought a change from her mundane existence. Young and bored she answered an advertisement for an assistant to a busy publisher and her life was transformed when she met Bomber. Full of charisma and charm Bomber always made those around him feel good. Slowly Eunice falls in love and although Bomber can never reciprocate a close friendship develops.

The Keeper of Lost Things is a charming novel where Ruth Hogan has successfully blended the believable with fantasy to entertain but also to give the reader the opportunity to reflect on the deeper meanings of the story. It covers love and loss, friendship and pain through beautifully written prose, especially in the short stories relating to the lost objects.

While reading these poignant tales it gives pause for thought that these items have a story behind them. That the loss of the “Lime green hair bobble with plastic flowers. Found on the playing field Derrywood Park, 2 September...” came about during a moment of courage and triumph for its owner.

And, like the objects, people too have a story. When meeting strangers we have no knowledge of their past; what has brought them to where they are today; what experiences have made them who they are. Ruth Hogan has weaved a tale that highlights the complexities of human relationships and has done so with tenderness and a dose of humour through the lives of these delightful characters.

Bomber’s sister Portia and the ghostly element surrounding Therese bring a lighter side to the story. Sunshine, the nineteen year old girl with Down’s Syndrome, who befriends Laura, is special in many ways. In her innocence she reminds us that because someone is different their views and opinions should be respected.

And then there is Freddy the handsome gardener at Padua…how can Laura resist!

A lovely book to read sitting by a log fire…with a glass of wine…on a cold winter’s night.

Enjoy.

You can follow Ruth on Twitter: @ruthmariehogan