The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

thewisdomThe Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is another book that’s slightly out of my comfort zone but I really enjoyed the Keeper of Lost Things last year and so decided to give this one a shot.  There’s no elements of fantasy in this at all.  It’s a story of loss, guilt, redemption and it has a strong thread of hope in terms of self forgiveness and allowing yourself to live on after terrible events have created sadness and loss.

The story revolves around a central character called Masha.  You can feel Masha’s overwhelming sadness even though at this point you’re unclear as to what is the cause.  Hogan writes emotions so well.  It feels like Masha is drowning in despair and guilt and her feelings very much flood over into the lives of her surrounding friends and family causing them too to suffer alongside her.  It’s like Masha feels too guilty to live and in some respects almost pushes herself to the brink.  But, before I make this sound too overwhelming, things begin to slowly change in the subtlest ways.  Primarily with the introduction of new friends into Masha’s life, friends who she can open up to finally and actually begin to forgive herself and allow her own life to continue.  I suppose there’s something about sharing stories and in doing so lightening the load.

I don’t really need to say too much about the plot.  This isn’t a convoluted story and I don’t want to give too much away.  There is a side plot to the story that introduces a mysterious element to the tale  To be honest, I’m not totally sure this element was really necessary although I can see why the author would wish to include it.

I liked Masha.  She has a lovely family and friends although in her presence they’re all on pins a little, like they’re afraid to laugh in case it breaks her somehow or they simply don’t know how to handle the situation.  I guess grief brings out the awkwardness.  I really enjoyed watching Masha go through a kind of metamorphosis and finally allow herself to begin feeling again.

The story is full of quirky and eccentric characters, the writing is accomplished and the settings veer between social events that Masha is strong armed into attending, her time spent at the local lido which is at once where she tortures herself with memories and also the place where she finally learns to live again, and the cemetery.   I loved Masha’s time spent in the cemetery with her large hairy hound.  I find cemeteries quite fascinating to be honest so I loved this aspect to the story, almost like I’d found a like minded character.

In terms of criticisms.  Like I mentioned, I really don’t think the parallel plot was necessary.  I think the story could have stood on it’s own two feet as it was – a story of loss and redemption, the additional element felt a little sensational and, to be honest, a tiny bit predictable.  It didn’t spoil the story for me but even now, having sat on this review, I still don’t feel like it was needed.

On the whole, and personal preferences to one side, this is a lovely read.  I didn’t enjoy it as much as Hogan’s first work but I still think it was a quick and easy read and managed to really pack emotion into the tale.

As I mentioned, this isn’t my usual type of novel but if you want something charming quirky and hopeful this could make a very enjoyable summer read.

I received a copy from the publisher, courtesy of Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

ThekeeperThe Keeper of Lost Things is what I would call a feel good book.  It’s not my typical read to be honest, it’s not full of dragons, vampires or fae, no grimdark, no snark, no cursing up a storm but it’s one of those books that contains what I suppose I would describe as gentle fantasy.  There is a hint of ghosts, a whisper of fate working in strange ways and ensuring that people’s paths cross and there’s a lovely coming together of all things in a completely over the top saccharine and yet strangely satisfying way.  It’s one of those books that plays on those thoughts that we probably all harbour that maybe there is ‘something else’.  What I will say before I go any further is this book had me entranced, it had moments of pure laugh out loud delight and moments of sadness and sincerity.

There are a number of elements to this story which I’ll try and simplify by describing the characters.

Anthony Peardew is an elderly gentleman.  An author who lives in a beautiful house where time seems to stand still.  Anthony is the keeper of lost things.  Unfortunately years ago he suffered the tragic loss of the love of his life, at the same time he lost a trinket that he believed linked the two of them together.  Since then he has collected lost things.  The things he finds when he’s out walking.  He meticulously labels and keeps them and hopes to reunite these objects with their owners although he doesn’t really know how to do so.

Laura started working for Anthony a number of years ago.  Her marriage broke down, she finally shook of her philandering husband but had very little else in her life until she took up this job.  Originally as Anthony’s assistant, typing up his stories and then as the stories dry up she continues almost as his housekeeper but really more than that as a friend.  When Anthony passes away he leaves his house and his little emporium of objects to Laura and requests that she tries to reunite them with their owners.  So, unexpectedly Laura finds herself with a lovely home and a purpose all in one unexpected blow.

Sunshine is the girl next door.  What a lovely character she is, quirky and with a beautiful nature.  A character that really does live up to her name.  Freddy is the gardener, and of course he’s the rugged mind candy of the piece – nothing wrong with some mind candy every now and again imho.

Alongside this we have a parallel story which takes place some years earlier involving a young woman called Eunice and her best friend Bomber.  This is a story of unrequited love that grows into a deep friendship.  Also a story of things lost and found.

So, this is, without doubt a story that is sweet.  A treacly confection, dripping with syrup and oozing with sugar.  There is no suspense.  You pretty much know that all of these things are simply going to work out.  Really, there isn’t any particular attention to detail, and as a nitpicker I do like my attention to detail.  And yet, in spite of all of this, I loved it.  So there you go.  Sometimes that is how the cookie crumbles.  I had my cake and I ate it, cherry on top, the lot.

The writing is lovely, the book has a charming whimsical feel, a budding romance and a general overall coming together of all things in a very pleasing way.  New beginnings and bursting with hope.  On top of that there are a collection of lovely sideline stories – Anthony used to write imaginary stories about the objects he found – or more to the point the people who lost them – and they really are quite inspired.

The Keeper of Lost Things hooked me more than I expected and for the short time it took me to blast through the pages it held me in my own little bubble of bliss.  A little keeper this one.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.