2008: 99. The Secret of Lost Things


“I was born before this story starts, before I dreamed of such place as the Arcade, before I imagined men like Walter Geist existed outside of fables, outside of fairy tales.”

The Secret of Lost Things, Sheridan Hay

This novel sounded like my exact favorite kind of book - a literary mystery set in a fabulous bookstore, like Possession, or even The Thirteenth Tale.  This book is the story of Rosemary, who arrives in New York an eighteen year old Tasmanian orphan determined to start a new life.  She gets a job at the marvelous Arcade bookstore, where it seems that every book ever published ends up, and where she quickly becomes involved with the lives of the characters who work there - Oscar, who runs the non-fiction section and cares more about secrets and fabrics than the young girl who falls for him, Pearl, the pre-operative transsexual cashier, Mr. Mitchell, the kindly father figure who runs the rare book room, and Walter Geist the secretive, albino assistant manager who is enamored of Rosemary’s charms.  Throw into the mix the possibility of an undiscovered manuscript by Herman Melville, and the secret machinations of the staff to discover who has it and where it can be found, and it makes  for quite a set up.  

However, the novel left me cold.  The mystery ended up being secondary to the characters, and the story of the characters just wasn’t that interesting.  Exotic, but not really interesting, particularly the protagonist. Rosemary was such a drip that her story didn’t really touch me in any way.  She spends the story being pushed around and not acting purposely - just drifting along, not choosing a side, but drifting between one party or another - loyal to one party, then another party, telling secrets, making promises, getting felt up - not because she particularly wants to, but because she doesn’t choose a side.  I just felt like, even for a naive eighteen year old foreigner, she was so pitiful that the story lost its immediacy for me.  So, an interesting premise, but because it turned out to be character driven instead of plot driven, and the characters weren’t that great, I was left disappointed.

Date/Place Completed: 7/15/08; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Library Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017