Tuesday, March 29, 2011
The Secret of Lost Things...Review
Eighteen years old and alone, Rosemary leaves her native Australia and arrives in New York with little more than a few dollars, a love of books, and a desire to be a part of the city's magical life. The moment she steps into the Arcade bookstore, she feels she's finally found her niche. An odd and eccentric cast of characters punches the clock and calls the store home: the curmudgeonly owner, Mr. Pike; Pearl, the flamboyant transsexual cashier who dispenses advice; Oscar, who shares his knowledge and experience but refuses anything more intimate; and Arthur Pick, a devotee of homoerotic art books.
Behind the scenes, overseeing the shop's accounts, is store manager Walter Geist, a lonely, uncomfortable misfit -- even by the Arcade's liberal standards. It is Rosemary, working as his assistant, who first opens the letter seeking a buyer for a lost manuscript of Herman Melville. Mentioned in Melville's letters but never published, it's considered priceless, if it exists. The mere chance that it might sets off a civil war among the Arcade staff, each member determined to claim a piece of the bounty, with Rosemary in the middle of the battle.
A literary detective story and a wickedly funny portrait of life in a fabled bookstore, The Secret of Lost Things is an intriguing celebration of the bibliophile in all of us.
I loved the premise. I love books and I loved old, used bookstores. The writing is lyrical. Many of the descriptions and commentaries about books were fascinating. Many I would love to quote.
However, the story was slow and plodding. The characters are simply caricatures rather than quirky and ultimately, I cared about none of them. The whole Melville thing got old and was ultimately unresolved. I suppose if one is a true Melville fan, it would have been a welcome storyline. I ended up skimming some of those sections.
Billed as a coming of age novel, this was ultimately a disappointment. There is also unnecessary profanity and an awkward, embarrassing sex scene.
I kept reading, hoping it would redeem itself. It didn't.
Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. You can purchase your own copy here.