One lost purse. One lost woman.
A chance encounter that changes everything.

Dot Watson has lost her way. Wracked with guilt and struggling with grief, she has tucked herself away in the London Transport Lost Property office, finding solace in the process of cataloguing misplaced things. It’s not glamorous or exciting, but it’s solitary – just the way Dot likes it.

#LostPropertyBook @drhelenparis @DoubleDayUK #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours #blogtour

That is, until elderly Mr Appleby walks through the door in search of his late wife’s purse and Dot immediately feels a connection to him. Determined to help, she sets off on an extraordinary journey, one that could lead Dot to reclaim her life and find where she truly belongs…

My Review

Each year I wait for that one book that grabs me by the heart and won’t let go. One of those books is Lost Property. Every phrase, every sentence, in this wonderful story needs to be savoured. You can’t read this beautiful book too quickly or you will miss something worthwhile.

There is a very poignant moment where Dot remembers her father’s death and how her mother was washing and ironing his clothes to give them away to the charity shop. Dot is furious and can’t understand her mum’s behaviour. I remember a friend whose mum had taken her own life and how cross she was that her sister had started to clear their mum’s house a few days later. She thought it was disrespectful. We have to remember that everyone handles grief in their own way. For some that clearance is cathartic, while for others it’s too painful. My mum died in hospital in 1992 but had been living in a nursing home and my brother and I had four days to clear her belongings from her room. They already had a new patient, but at the time it was terrible. In hindsight I can understand, especially as my mother-in-law passed away recently and we had to do the same thing.

I was at times reminded of The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (one of my favourite books of all time) just because each lost item has its own ‘identity’. Like in Keeper, Dot gives some items their own back story. Dot also collects lost travel guides which have not been collected, taking them home and arranging them by country or other criteria. Occasionally she finds a duplicate which she then pops into the pocket of a lost coat or bag, very carefully matching the guide to the owner.

I cannot even begin to describe how much I loved this book. How much I laughed and how much I cried. The saddest parts of the story are when Dot visits her mum in The Pines care home, where she is suffering from dementia. I cried while reading – it was so beautifully written – Dot so desperate for her mum to remember something, anything. Just for a glimpse of the woman who sang like an angel.

I know one criticism is that Dot seems much older than she is, but that’s the whole point isn’t it? She is old before her time. I think she is only about late thirties – maybe 40 – but she dresses and behaves like someone’s maiden aunt. Until she finds herself again.

Her journey of rediscovery begins when Dot goes looking for an elderly gentleman named Mr Appleby, to reunite him with his leather holdall and his late wife’s purse. The only clues that Dot has to go on are a receipt from a coffee shop called Judges, that the town has a funicular railway and fisherman’s huts and that it overlooks the channel. I guessed immediately!!

But her greatest grief is over the death of her father and the guilt she feels. ‘Loss is the price we pay for love,’ says Mr Appleby. How true.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours

About the Author

Helen Paris worked in the performing arts for two decades, touring internationally with her London-based theatre company Curious. After several years living in San Francisco and working as a theatre professor at Stanford University, she returned to the UK to focus on writing fiction. As part of her research for a performance called ‘Lost & Found’, Paris shadowed employees in the Baker Street Lost Property office for a week, an experience that sparked her imagination and inspired this novel.

Lost Property is her first novel.

A note from Helen:
Although entirely a work of fiction Lost Property was influenced by the short time I spent in Lost Property, Baker Street shadowing different employees as research for a performance. Whether it’s a designer bag left in the back of a black cab or a woolly scarf forgotten on the number 44 bus, loss touches all of us. It is pervasive, and it never ends – as Dot Watson might say, ‘It’s reliable like that.’

I have always been fascinated by the memories that objects hold, how even the most every day object – a pipe, a bag, a small purse – can help us recall a place or a person or a particular time in life. Objects can be totemic, portals to the past. Tactile memory – the memories triggered by holding familiar objects – can be profound. Some objects almost let us time-travel back to the places we yearn to be, to the people no longer with us, and linger there, if only for a moment.”

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