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The Secret of Lost ThingsReview - The Secret of Lost Things
A Novel
by Sheridan Hay
Blackstone Audiobooks, 2007
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
May 8th 2007 (Volume 11, Issue 19)

Eighteen-year-old Rosemary grew up with her single mother in Tasmania, until her mother died on her birthday.  The other woman in her life, a bookstore owner she calls "Chaps", takes her in.  However, it is not long before Chaps decides Rosemary must start a new life, and gives her a plane ticket to New York.  Rosemary arrives with $300 and moves into a cheap hotel for women.  She walks around the city getting to know it, and eventually gets a job at a large bookstore, The Arcade.  There she meets some new people and makes friends.  She becomes involved in a mystery concerning a lost novel by Herman Melville.  She falls in love with one unavailable man, while another man takes a liking to her.  She meets some colorful characters who she would have never encountered in Tasmania.  By the end of the novel, she has matured and is able to cope with her life.  On the way, she has learned much more about American literature, and especially the correspondence between Melville and Nathanial Hawthorne

It is never clear in what period the story is set.  Rosemary's Tasmanian home town seems like it could be from the 1950s, and the labyrinthine bookstore The Arcade and its characters are distinctly Dickensian.  It is a little surprising to learn that Rosemary traveled by airplane to America, and it is astonishing when, on the occasion that she visits a hospital, the receptionist consults a computer.  One wonders how long ago it was that there were hotels in Manhattan where one could stay for more than a week and still have change from $300, and whether they really had computers at that time.

The unabridged audiobook is read well by Vanessa Benjamin, who copes well with the variety of accents of the different characters.  The novel is enjoyable enough, although it is hardly gripping.  Rosemary is a puzzling narrator, partly because, like the undetermined time period of the story, she seems like a character from an earlier age, unfamiliar with the ways of the modern world.  Furthermore, all the characters at the bookstore also give the impression of being creatures from another time, to use Rosemary's own phrase.  Toward the end of the story, as a mystery is solved, it is hard to believe that she could have not have anticipated the plot twist that was so obviously signaled.  As a first novel, it is distinctive but more idiosyncratic than impressive. 

 

© 2007 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.

 


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