The All Good Books discussion group will meet this Thursday, August 20, 2020 on Zoom at 7 PM. We’ll discuss Ruth Hogan’s “The Keeper of Lost Things: A Novel.”

The main characters in the novel include:

Anthony Peardew: Owner of Padua and the Keeper of lost things; 68 when he interviewed Laura (several years ago).

Laura: Housekeeper at Padua, interviewed with Anthony on her 35th birthday.

Vince: unfaithful ex-husband of Laura, she met him when she was seventeen. Called himself Vince the Invincible.

Theresa: The love of Anthony’s life, deceased.

Charles Bramwell Brockley: cremation remains found in Huntley & Palmers biscuit tin

Freddy, the gardener. He had started working at Padua a couple of years prior to Laura. He was tall and dark, but not so handsome as to be a cliché. “faint scar which ran vertically between his nose and top lip.”

Felicity: Freddy’s apparent girlfriend.

Eunice: Responded to an ad to work for a publisher in May, 1974.

Bomber: Publisher and rescuer of Douglas, a crippled dog after being hit by a car.

Douglas: “small tan-and-white terrier with one ear at half-mast and a brown patch over his left eye.”

Portia: Bomber’s odious sister, wants Bomber to publish her book.

Godfrey and Grace: Bomber and Portia’s parents.

Sunshine: Laura’s new friend, age 19.

Stan and Stella, Sunshine’s parents.

The questions listed at the end of the novel include the first ten listed below with additional possible discussion questions following.

  1. “When Laura is hired by Anthony Peardew on her thirty-fifth birthday, she thinks the job “had been the perfect present, and the beginning of hope.” What does Anthony see in Laura? Why are she and Padua perfect for one another? Is Laura in some way one of Anthony’s lost things?
  2. What do you make of Eunice and Bomber’s relationship? Were you disappointed to discover that it would never be romantic?
  3. Anthony reflects that “he could not regret his life without Therese. . . . To give up when she had died would have been the greatest wrong; to throw away the gift that had been snatched from her would have been an act of appalling ingratitude and cowardice.” How does that square with his solitary life, surrounded by his lost things? Is Anthony truly living without her, or is he merely existing? What do you think he would say?
  4. Even her parents and brother seem to find Portia’s company almost intolerable. Is she in any way a sympathetic character? Does Portia evolve over the course of the novel?
  5. When she handles Anthony’s lost things, Sunshine seems to know their stories, saying, “I can feel it. I don’t think it in my head, I just feel it.” Why do you think that is? What other aspects of this story seemed touched with the magical or otherworldly?
  6. Why does Laura seem so reluctant to commit to her romance with Freddy? What was the turning point for her?
  7. What finally quiets Therese’s mischievous ghost? Was she trying to teach a lesson to the living, or did she require their help in order to find peace at last?
  8. Did Eunice do the right thing when she opened the windows of Bomber’s room? What would you have done if you were her?
  9. Which of the stories of the lost things was your favorite? Have you ever discovered a lost thing and tried to discover its owner or learn more about it?
  10. What do you think happens to the characters in this novel after it ends? What comes next in the lives of Laura, Freddy, Sunshine, and Eunice?
  11. Laura refers to “The Truth Fairy had a very suspicious nature.” Who was the Truth Fairy?
  12. What did Eunice find when she left her interview with Bomber? What’s it’s significance to the story?
  13. What’s the story behind the lost blue-sky puzzle piece?
  14. Bomber felt that “the wonderful thing about books was that they were films that played inside your head.” Do you agree? Is that always the case? Have you ever read a book then watched the movie adaption and been satisfied with both?
  15. Eunice feels sad that “the best day of her life so far had been the last day of someone else’s, and all that had separated them had been a few feet of tarmac.” What happened? Theoretically, we all know that is possible, but has it ever happened to you?
  16. The term codswallop is used several times throughout the book. What does it mean? Did you have to look it up? What’s a Ming-Mong? What’s a Dancing Drome? How do those terms appear in the novel? Were there other terms in the novel that you looked up?
  17. What had Anthony lost and why was it important? Have you ever had a similar loss? Describe it.
  18. At a point in the story, Theresa’s photo always appears face down. Why? When Laura replaces it in its upright position, she says “I hope to God you find each other,” and then wonders “to herself if that counted as a prayer.” What counts as a prayer? Who is the “each other” she refers to?
  19. Why do you think the clock always stops at 11:55 pm? If it’s a windup clock, shouldn’t the stopping time vary?
  20. Sunshine frequently refers to Anthony as St. Anthony. Who was St. Anthony and where did he come from? Did you look it up while reading the novel? Are you familiar with the Miracle Prayer to St Anthony? How does it relate to the novel’s plot?
  21. What image did you initially form of Sunshine? Was that image changed during the marriage/burial service (where she spoke during the scattering of the ashes ceremony)?
  22. Did it register that the author frequently uses alliteration in the novel? Did you find that fascinating or distracting? Too much or it didn’t even register with you?
  23. One reviewer writes, “Bomber’s sister Portia’s never-ending homages to the classics of literature are side-splitting.” Do you agree?
  24. The phrase “Where reason fails, chimera flourishes” appears in the novel. What do you think that means? How does it apply to the plot?
  25. Several of the stories of the lost items are related in the novel. Did you assume they would all tie in at some point? Did they? Were you disappointed with any of the lost object stories? Which stories “stuck” with you? Which of the characters within the novel wrote the stories behind the lost objects?
  26. Movies play a role in the novel. How? Did that add a level of meaning for you? Were you familiar with any of the movies mentioned? Which ones?
  27. What happens at the conclusion of the novel? Were you satisfied or dissatisfied with the ending? Why?
  28. Would you recommend “The Keeper of Lost Things” to a friend with similar literary interests? Would you like to read another Ruth Hogan book?