The Room of Lost Things – Stella Duffy

Once every so often you come across a book where you just think ‘what a great idea’ and ‘how the hell did they come up with that idea?’ This is the case of Stella Duffy’s latest novel ‘The Room of Lost Things’. It is a really accomplished and human novel that tells of some of the residents of Loughborough Junction and celebrates the often forgotten ‘south of the river’ part of London. I really loved this book and not just for the real characters but for the idea of the room of lost things.

The story focuses on several characters but in particular Robert Sutton who is the keeper of the room of lost things. He runs a laundry in Loughborough Junction which he is handing over to Akeel and his wife, meaning that he is packing up and dealing with his past and not only the secrets that other people have left in their laundry, but his own demons. There are also tales of a gay commitment phobe, a nanny who is having an affair, a woman with memory loss and many more colourful but most importantly realistic characters.

The other star of the story is London and not the London that everyone knows and loves, not the tourist traps and the hustle and bustle of the West End but the more hidden parts where tubes dare not tread and in some ways you could say this is a love letter (the prose is beautiful) to a part of London that Duffy lives and indeed loves. I haven’t read any of Duffy’s previous works but I know she has written crime and though this is not a crime novel you can see how she weaves a plot dropping hints and herrings to what’s to come at the end of the book.

I was moved, I feel in love with London even more (especially as it was based on my side of the river) and I had read it before I realised it, and it just enveloped me. A wonderful book I whole heartedly recommend.

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Filed under Books of 2008, Orange Prize, Review, Stella Duffy, Virago Books

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