I was browsing a bookshop with my friend Maura when I excitedly handed her a copy of Eleanor Olyphant is Completely Fine. “Have you read this?” I demanded. She hadn’t. “You must read this!” I enthused, describing it in concise, non-spoilery terms.
She nodded, disappeared to talk to the clerk for a minute, then came back with this book in her hand. “And you must read this,” she insisted. We left with several books each that visit, including both recommendations.
Yesterday, Maura finally read Eleanor (it’s gotten very popular, almost ubiquitous, since I made her buy a copy) and wrote to rave about it. It was only right that I returned the favour.
I can see why my short precis of Eleanor made Maura think of Lost for Words. Both feature a socially awkward, misanthropic heroine damaged by childhood trauma and finding love in unexpected places. Lonely, sardonic, self-reliant, both Eleanor and Loveday share marked similarities. (The books came out within months of each other, Lost for Words first.)
Loveday works at Lost for Words, a thriving antique and second-hand bookshop in Northern England, and yes, it’s set in the present day. (Fortunately, she explains that the shop’s proprietor, the gregarious and charismatic Archie, has other sources of income, otherwise this novel might cross into the realms of fantasy.) Completely resistant to relationships following a recent experience with a controlling jerk, she is drawn to magician and poetry fan Nathan, who may or may not help her heal her heart.
The story is a little overlong in its closing act, but is largely enjoyable nevertheless, in all its heartbreak and gradually unravelling mystery and romance. Loveday’s first person perspective is quite gripping, and while she is sometimes infuriating in her vacillation, especially at the end, it all comes from the early psychological damage she is so sure she can never overcome.
She is also often very funny.
For all their similarities, Lost for Words is very much its own book, charming and upsetting and clever and addictive. I quite loved it, really.
TBR DAY 80: Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland
GENRE: Women’s Fiction
TIME ON THE TBR: 1 year.
PURCHASED FROM: Hill of Content, Melbourne.
KEEP: No, I’ll pass this one on to other fans of Eleanor Olyphant.