Secret of Lost Things

Perhaps It Was I Who Had Changed, Despite, Or Maybe Because Of, All That Had Happened.


Title: The Secret of Lost Things
(Ama­zon, Goodreads)
Author: Sheri­dan Hay
(Ama­zon, Goodreads, Web­site)
Series: None
Pub­lisher: Anchor
Genre: Fic­tion
For­mat: Paper­back
Source: Book­store Purchase


Eigh­teen years old and com­pletely alone, Rose­mary arrives in New York from Tas­ma­nia with lit­tle other than her love of books and an eager­ness to explore the city. Tak­ing a job at a vast, chaotic empo­rium of used and rare books called the Arcade, she knows she has found a home. But when Rose­mary reads a let­ter from some­one seek­ing to “place” a lost man­u­script by Her­man Melville, the book­store erupts with sim­mer­ing ambi­tions and rival­ries. Includ­ing actual cor­re­spon­dence by Melville, The Secret of Lost Things is at once a lit­er­ary adven­ture and evoca­tive por­trait of a young woman mak­ing a life for her­self in the city.


I have to say while it was a good read, it was some­what slow and hard to stay involved in through­out. I’m not sure I would rec­om­mend it to any­one in par­tic­u­lar and in a way that makes me sad. I pre­fer a book that I will go out of my way to tell some­one all about it so that they too will be inter­ested in read­ing it. I do like that it is set in NY and it makes some very poignant state­ments about life in the city. My favorite quote from the book:

But habit had done its work, and the short dis­tance had none of its for­mer sur­prise; the city had now lost its fresh day­light dis­tinc­tion. Once you know your way about, that ear­lier expe­ri­ence of dis­cov­ery can’t be restored; a com­pletely unknown New York was irre­triev­able. The dirty park appeared, almost indis­tinct from its urban sur­round­ings under snow, part of the land­scape now, not more than a reminder that it had served as my nat­ural clock, mark­ing the pass­ing of sea­sons… Win­ter was harder than I imagined.

Towards the end of the book I found another bit that par­tic­u­lar touched me:

Just when New York was a world of win­ter, I was reminded that sea­sons change, and spring, of all things, began to send out emis­saries of what was to come. Each day lasted a lit­tle longer, and as a con­se­quence I resumed my evening walks. Buds appeared on the shrubs of my dirty park, stuck to the branches like tiny brown nuts. The trapped plas­tic bags, ubiq­ui­tous to city trees, filled with warmer, snow­less air, mak­ing them less melan­choly than they had once appeared. Per­haps it was I who had changed, despite, or maybe because of, all that had happened.

I wish I could say the rest of the book was a great as those two pas­sages, but sadly it is not. I find that the rea­sons these two bits in par­tic­u­lar stuck out for me is that I have felt the new­ness of explor­ing the city and see­ing new things with fresh eyes, only to find that after time goes on, it just becomes a back­ground that you no longer stop and gaze around in won­der as you are going from place to place. But I do find that as with the sea­sons, things change and some­times I am still sur­prised to find some­thing, a build­ing per­haps, that I have walked by many a time and never noticed until just then, or wan­dered through a park com­ing across a hid­den trea­sure of sculp­ture that until that moment I had no knowl­edge of.

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