The Secret of Lost Things, Sheridan Hay

I’ve been wanting to read this for a while, ever since it was in the New Books section at Bongs & Noodles and I almost but didn’t quite buy it.  It’s all about an Australian girl whose mother dies, and she comes to work in a bookshop in New York that is a very good and famous bookshop and contains many strange people who are albinos and trannies and emotionally unavailable snobs.  They are a motley crew. I had high hopes.

All dashed, unfortunately.  It’s not the worst book ever, but I could hardly be bothered finishing it.  I only finished it at all because I had some vague stubborn feeling that my judging-a-book-by-its-title-and-cover instincts were not as catastrophically wrong as all that.  I think that these literary suspensey books are very difficult to pull off.  Thinking of some that I’ve read – I found Possession quite gripping as I recall, but I’ve never had any desire to read it again though now that I bring it up I might check it out; The Archivist wasn’t bad, and I liked it when he said existence is infinitely cross-referenced; I liked Arturo Perez-Reverte (and he knew about Rafael Sabatini!) but I got too fed up with the translation to carry on – so, yes, I think that kind of book is just tricky to write.  Maybe not the best genre to write your very first novel in.

I thought the characters – who should have carried the book, the way it was written – were much less interesting than they should have been.  They never really rounded out and became people, and I found the heroine frustrating.  Which, actually, upon reflection, is because she never really rounded out either.  I couldn’t ever predict what she was going to do, which wasn’t because she was unpredictable the way that people are unpredictable, but because she was such a cipher.  And they were all like that really, like Sheridan Hay wrote “Oscar – snobby asexual guy” and “Walter – weird albino” and then didn’t bother taking it any further.

Life is like this.  I’m quite liking Anna’s Book, which I didn’t expect to care about at all, and The Secret of Lost Things, which I expected to love, doesn’t even rate an “Enjoyed” tag.

  • Nuts. I bought this based on a good review and all I’ve read since are negative. Oh, well. The premise was good. I did love Anna’s Book though – Barbara Vine? I read that when I hurt my back and was stuck on the floor.

  • jennysbooks

    Can you still return it? Because I would have been in exactly your same position if I’d had money when I first saw it, but hopefully I’d have been careless and left the receipt inside the book. Oh, and, Bongs & Noodles, they take books back without a receipt for store credit. You could return it and buy a brilliant new book!

  • No – I got a good deal on it from Bookcloseouts.com so I’m stuck. I may try it at some point….or else I can always trade it at paperbackswap.

    Bongs & Noodles? What a fantastic name! It is a bookstore? I’ll look it up.

  • Wait- do you mean Barnes & Noble?

  • jennysbooks

    Barnes & Noble, yup. My friend Jane and I used to go to Barnes & Noble all the time, and we would get books and split one of those big-ass chocolate chip cookies, and one time she said the store would be better if it were called Bongs & Noodles. I’ve been calling it that ever since. It’s such a better name! Join us, comrade!