The Room of Lost Things – Stella Duffy

The Room of Lost Things is set in London, and shows a side to the city which isn’t often seen. The book is set in a dry-cleaning shop and follows its owner, Robert, as he decides to retire and pass his business on to the young, east Londoner, Akeel. The book gives brief glimpses into the lives of those who enter the dry-cleaning shop, or some who are simply are passing by. In doing so it paints a picture of the people who live near the railway arch of Loughborough Junction, south London.

Unfortunately I didn’t fall in love with this book. There were too many characters introduced too quickly. I didn’t count them, but I saw one review on Amazon which stated that 26 were introduced by the half way point. I know that this was to demonstrate the diversity of the local population, and that we are only supposed to capture glimpses of their lives as you would in a dry-cleaning shop, but my poor little brain can’t cope with this sort of thing, and I had nothing to pull me in to the book.

The book improved in the second half as we learned more about Robert, and I got a bit more used to the writing style. I found the ending quite poignant, but I’m afraid that a great last paragraph couldn’t compensate for the lack of real plot during the rest of the book.

The Room of Lost Things was recommended to me by Simon, and I have seen a few other good reviews around. So, please do not dismiss this book on my account. I am well known for having a poor capacity for coping with lots of different characters, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book much more than me. 


20 replies on “The Room of Lost Things – Stella Duffy”

So sorry you didn’t enjoy this one Jackie. I read it earlier in the year and absolutely loved it but I would not have been able to say how many characters were introduced so early in the book – that’s an amazing statistic!!

I generally love these types of stories.

One of my favorite books was Between Two Rivers, Rinaldi –

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Through the microcosm of a large cast of international characters residing in a condo building in lower Manhattan during the years 1992-2001, Rinaldi summons no less than the pageant of the human tragicomedy. Each of them, at times, lonely and isolated, harbors an incredibly rich interior life in which the past is fully alive and readily accessible. Karl Vogel, a highly decorated WWII German fighter pilot, recalls his hatred for Hitler, while Farro Fescu, the proud Romanian concierge, still misses his uncles, who may have been killed in one of Vogel’s bombing raids; nevertheless, the two men share a cordial relationship. Egyptian-born plastic surgeon Theo Tattafruge, who specializes in transgender operations, obsessively researches Teddy Roosevelt’s adventurous life, finding in it an intoxicating mix of decisiveness and optimism that is so lacking in his patients’ lives. Artist Maggie Sowle is commissioned by the UN to make a memorial quilt and puts her long-dead, much-loved husband’s handprints at the center. In this way, Rinaldi effortlessly intertwines the political and the personal. With lavish and loving detail, he invokes the human experience–weddings and wars, art and commerce, births and funerals. A beautiful, emotionally uplifting tribute to the human spirit. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Karen – Yes, I’m not sure if it’s true, but I do know that there were too many characters for me to cope with.

Beth – You will probably enjoy this book – if you read a few pages then you should get a good idea of what it’s like.

Diane – Thank you for the recommendation. I’ll go and have a look at Between Two Rivers, as it does sound interesting.

I like the premise of the book, so I will consider myself forewarned that there are a LOT of characters to keep track of 🙂

Thanks for the nice, honest review.

Molly – I’m sure you’ll be OK – I drive my husband nuts when we watch films as I am always asking who is that – I have a real problem remembering lots of different characters. I don’t think I’m normal though!!

This sounds interesting, although I agree that sprawling novels with a multitude of characters can drive you mad and leave you feeling uninvolved with the story.

A few days ago I noticed that a famous writer explained why she only introduced a character by name if he/she was important for the story. Otherwise it was enough to tell the reader that this was the nurse, the doctor, the shopkeeper etc.
I am sure she has an important point, because I also grow tired and confused if I have to juggle with far too many names while reading.

Its a great premise, but I do tend to get confused when there are so many characters. That doesn’t necessarily stop me, but I sometimes have to just let go of trying to keep up and go with the flow. BTW, I can’t wait for you to read The Post-Birthday World!

I’m pleased that I’m not putting you all off reading this book, and look forward to reading your thoughts on it, if you decide to give it a go.

Dorte – Which famous author was it? I have to agree with them – it is much more useful just to refer to a character as a nurse than having to remember their name too.

Sandy – I’ve just started Post Birthday World and am loving it!

Jackie, I will put myself out on a ledge and tell you that it is one of my favorite books of the last five years. I loved the creativity of the premise (who hasn’t wondered “what if”), I loved the irony between Life A and Life B, I just loved all of it. A really good friend of mine just read it as part of her book club, and while she loved it, the rest of them didn’t. That bothered me! What is not to love here!

Sorry you didn’t like this book too much. You are right, it is confusing at first with all the characters flapping in and out of the pages. I often can’t keep things straight if there are too many characters, but, like Sandy, I just push through. Somehow, I always have it figured out in my mind by the end of the book, I don’t know how that happens, though.
Better luck with Post Birthday World, can’t wait to hear what you think of that one.

Sandy – I don’t think it is as good as We Need to Talk About Kevin yet, but it is very good. I don’t think it will take me very long to finish, as I can’t put I down!

Kim – Have you read Post Birthday World?

Jackie, I wish I remembered. It was a woman who wrote thrillers, and she said it because a nurse complained about her book. The nurse felt the writer didn´t take her occupation seriously because she just called the characters nurses. It might have been Tess Gerritson, but I am not at all sure. I just thought her answer was spot-on.

Dorte – It is a shame you can’t remember – nevermind – we agree with them, whoever they are!

My grandfather, an Russian Immigrant started a tailor shop and dry cleaners. When my father was old enough, he took over the family business. My father made it clear to his four children that he wanted more for us. So when he retired, the business was sold to a friendly competitor.

That would be my draw to this book.

Teddy – What an interesting family history! I think you’d get a lot more out of this book than I did. Thanks for letting me know a bit more about you.

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