This slightly quirky book, somewhat in the ilk of ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ was a delight to read. The action centres around Transport for London’s Lost Property Office at Baker Street. Dot Watson has been employed there for 10 years and works diligently cataloguing the myriad of lost and found items, taking great pride in re-uniting them with their rightful owners. The header for each chapter is a luggage label, featuring an item reported lost, or found and providing an indication of what is to follow.
As the novel proceeds flashbacks of Dot’s past reveal that 10 years ago, she’d lived in Paris and her life had been very different. She was in love with a Frenchman, had established a successful career and cherished dreams of an exciting life of travel and adventure. Something happened to bring a sudden change in her circumstances.
Now Dot’s world is very small. Each day she dons her ‘unofficial’ uniform and performs her role professionally, but her sparkle has gone. She finds it hard to engage with the everyday banter of her colleagues or to socialise with them. Then when one day an elderly gentleman, Mr Appleby, calls in to report his loss, which is mainly of a sentimental value, it becomes her mission to locate it. But through acknowledging his desperation and grief Dot recognises that she is lost too and then her life starts to spiral out of control.
This is a heart-warming debut novel, which not only addresses serious issues such as loss, loneliness and social isolation but also demonstrates the power of kindness and the possibility of new beginnings. I found it an easy and uplifting read with a few unexpected twists and turns and enjoyed the rich descriptions of the other characters.
Reviewed by Hilary Whorrall
Published by Doubleday (13 May 2021)
Hardback, ISBN 978-0857527295