Review published on May 13, 2017.
What’s not to love about a novel set in a bookshop – and a brilliantly named one at that, Lost for Words – with a heroine who loves books more than people, especially when the story that is told is so engaging and the protagonist so refreshing? To my mind, it doesn’t get much better than that. Indeed, Stephanie Butland’s novel is a real delight, not least because of its leading lady, Loveday Cardew. Just like her name, Loveday stands out amongst the crowd of fictional female characters. With her tattoos and no-nonsense attitude, Loveday is a breath of fresh air. Open about her passions and aversions, her voice feels real and authentic. She really emerges as a different type of female lead and it’s nice to see someone quirky, different, and unconventional but very normal and relatable at the centre of the story. Her characterisation feels spot on too, the perfect balance of being both gutsy and fragile, pragmatic and big-hearted, insular and brave. Butland’s different breed of heroine leads to a different brand of love story and once more it feels distinctive and interesting. Although the book meets romantic expectations most notably in the form of Nathan, a poetry-writing, cravat-wearing hero, there’s a much darker vein to the story that deals with the misappropriation of love and trust, and as with everything in this story, Butland does an exceptional job of rejuvenating the genre to address very different assumptions and realities. The subplot regarding Loveday’s mother is yet another example of Butland’s innovative storytelling in action. And as if all that isn’t enough, the narrative approach is lovely, mixing in poetry, and dividing the chapters by literary genre. With so much going on in the novel, inevitably some of the threads feel a little thin, and the ending too was rather too rushed for my liking, but in all this was a superb novel, and one that really makes its mark by doing things differently. As a personal read it’s a joy, and for reading groups, particularly those who enjoy commercial fiction, the book comes with ready-made questions to explore. So there’s absolutely no reason not to pick this book up next time you’re in your favourite bookshop.
Jade Craddock 4/5
Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland
Zaffre 9781785762598 pbk Apr 2017