The Secret of Lost Things

August 24, 2009 at 8:29 am 3 comments

Oscar. It didn’t matter that I’d been warned by Pearl, I had decieved myself. It was my own fault. The fault of a girl who had loved the likes of Pip, Darcy, Knightley, Mr. Rochester (all the usual suspects) without genuinely registering their common quality–they were fictional.

Used bookstores hold a special fascination for me. It’s partly because I’m cheap and don’t like paying list price for a book I may or may not like. But mostly, it’s because the shelves covered in old paperbacks and abandoned copies of novels someone never got around to reading could be hiding almost any imaginable literary treasure.

In that way, The Secret of Lost Things is like the bookstore it portrays. Sheridan Hay has taken Herman Melville, an author not generally viewed as ‘hip’ or ‘sexy’ and therefore not often made the center of another author’s book, and buried all sorts of interesting facts about him and his work in the story. As well, she’s combined the themes of obsession, unrequited love, losing parents, emigrating, and bookishness with a fascinating plot that plays on the concepts of innocence and experience.

When Tasmanian emigrant Rosemary Savage arrives in New York City, she has literally nothing but three hundred dollars and a box that contains her mother’s ashes. She falls on her feet by landing a job in a used bookstore, the staff of which is a rather motley crew that includes a pre-operative transsexual, an albino, a morbidly obese man who spends much of his time staring at nude pictures, a rather scary Irishman, and an extraordinarily fastidious young man named Oscar. Before long, Rosemary is caught up in a complicated web of obsession, both of the amorous and book-related varities, as the manager of the store goes on a quest to find Herman Melville’s lost manuscript.

Though the story and the atmosphere were amazing, I should also point out that Sheridan Hay, like Margaret Atwood, has the ability to write a sentence so true that you can’t believe no one has ever written it down in quite that way before. The quote at the top of this page is one example, but many others are included within the pages of this book.

Sheridan Hay’s love of books and love for her characters shines through every page of this wonderful story. Definitely a book worth buying, especially for true bibliophiles, to whom the notion of a lost Herman Melville manuscript is every bit as exciting as an ordinary suspense novel.


Entry filed under: Contemporary Fiction. Tags: , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Corey  |  August 24, 2009 at 8:44 am

    This sounds absolutely beautiful and amazing. I’m going to the Strand tonight and I will pick it up! (Because I, too, have a dislike of paying list price for almost any book.)

  • 2. KT  |  August 24, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Oh, I forgot to mention! The Arcade, the used bookstore in this novel, is based on The Strand :)

  • 3. Corey  |  August 24, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Even BETTER! I am so pumped.


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