Book review: Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland
A quirky '“ if somewhat chaotic '“ second-hand bookshop in York seems to be the perfect place to file away your secrets from prying eyes.
But what the shop’s reclusive assistant Loveday Cardew hadn’t counted on was the past finally coming to find her… and offering the chance to write a story with a happy ending.
Stephanie Butland, a Northumberland-born author who doubles up as a creative thinking tutor, is an inspirational cancer survivor and not short of the northern grit and wit that form the backbone of this heartbreaking and original novel of friendship, family and books.
Lost For Words is that rare thing… a warm, wise and funny tale of our times with a dark and shocking twist hidden amongst the one-liners and the entertaining repartee, a seductive juxtaposing of life’s harsh realities with the comfortable cosiness of classy chick-lit.
Twenty-five-year-old Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. She writes poems in her spare time and for the past ten years she has worked at the Lost For Words second-hand bookshop in York. It’s a job that suits her fine. She likes sorting and filing the books, while the owner – amiable, affable Archie – is happy chatting to the customers.
The prickly and very private Loveday is not the easiest person to get on with, mainly because she doesn’t like talking to people, and her nose-ring, sarcasm and tattoos tend to draw strange looks and plenty of tuts.
But Loveday has dark secrets which she never shares with anybody. Fifteen years ago, in one unspeakable moment which she now mentally labels ‘The Incident,’ Loveday lost all she knew and loved so now she finds refuge in Archie’s safe and comfortable book emporium.
But something shifts for Loveday when into the shop comes performance poet and amateur magician Nathan Avebury, looking for a lost book. Despite her natural antipathy to people, she can’t help but notice that Nathan’s eyes ‘are the kind of blue you find on self-help book covers, to suggest clarity and calm.’
Not long after Nathan’s arrival, three mysterious packages arrive for Loveday, each one containing a collection of seemingly unremarkable second-hand books but each one stirring unsettling memories, some bittersweet and some too painful to bear.
Everything is about to change for Loveday. It seems someone knows about her past and is trying to send her a message. She can’t hide any longer. It’s finally time for Loveday to take charge of how her story unfolds.
But first she must decide who around her she can trust and summon up the courage to right a heartbreaking wrong. And if she does, she might just find her way home…
What makes this story sing out loud is its undoubted star, the lovable Loveday, a spiky, scratchy, sarcastic, fiercely independent and yet touchingly vulnerable young woman trying to make sense of her cruel past, her uncertain present and her unfathomable future.
Loveday’s disturbing history unfolds chapter by chapter, and almost literally verse by verse, and as we read between the lines, we find hurt, rejection, suspicion and sadness but also the redeeming power of friendship, understanding and unconditional love.
Lost For Words truly is a book lover’s dream… an intriguing story set in an irresistibly charming bookshop, packed with literary references, featuring a cast of eclectic characters and with a gripping and unexpected dénouement guaranteed to keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Not to be missed…
(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)