Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson

Of Things Gone Astray by Janina MatthewsonOf Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson
Published by HarperCollins UK on August 28th 2014
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 288
Mrs Featherby had been having pleasant dreams until she woke to discover the front of her house had vanished overnight ... On a seemingly normal morning in London, a group of people all lose something dear to them, something dear but peculiar: the front of their house, their piano keys, their sense of direction, their place of work. Meanwhile, Jake, a young boy whose father brings him to London following his mother’s sudden death in an earthquake, finds himself strangely attracted to other people’s lost things. But little does he realise that his most valuable possession is slipping away from him. Of Things Gone Astray is a magical fable about modern life and values. Perfect for fans of Andrew Kaufman and Cecelia Ahern.

I scored a pile of books a couple of weeks back at a swap, and, because I’m not good at decisions, I pondered on which book I’d start next. I grabbed for this book because it was physically closest to me. It also happened that this was the day after the news broke about Charleston. As I read over the back cover, I was struck by a line quoted from Andrew Kaufmann’s review: “This book reveals the world as it really is: fantastic.” It just felt like this book was what I needed that day.

There was such a beautiful cast of characters in this book. With the exception of Cassie, I totally fell in love with these characters. I could relate somewhat to Delia since I’ve a terrible sense of direction (although mine has been a lifelong affliction). Marcus appealed to the musician in me, and his characters often contained brilliant little nuggets of prose.

“She’d bought him a few CDs of his favourite composers, but he didn’t listen to them all that often. It was too much like always hearing strangers talking and never getting to say anything himself.”

I rather enjoyed following Robert as he literally lost his job, and the ways in which he tried to handle it. I found Jake’s chapters often heartbreaking as he dealt with the loss of his mother and also slowing losing his father. But there was something about his chapters that reminded me of Christopher from A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which is one my favorite books. Chapters featuring Mrs. Featherby were my favorite. I found myself laughing to myself during her chapters more so than any others. It may have been the absurdity of her missing wall or her diligence in maintaining her steadfast routines now that her fortress has been penetrated.

“The years she’d spent crafting a reputation for being reclusive seemed entirely wasted. One simply cannot be a believable recluse when one is cursed with a transparent wall.”

As for Cassie, she reminded me too much of Bella Swan from Twilight. I was bewildered by how Cassie’s preoccupation with her absentee lover outweighed any concerns about her leafy metamorphosis. In my head I was screaming at her to snap out of it so perhaps she’d become herself once again.

My proclivity for quoting in this review reflects my absolute favorite thing about this book: the author’s writing style. When I read a particularly choice phrase, my reaction was similar to the way I react when I taste something spectacular – I pause, close my eyes briefly, and savor it before moving along. For example…

“‘My dear,’ he said, ‘no matter how old we get, we somehow can never convince ourselves that whatever trial we’re in the middle of is only temporary. No matter how many trails we’ve had in the past, and no matter how well we remember that they eventually were there no longer, we’re sure that this one, this one right now, is a permanent state of affairs. But it’s not. By nature humans are temporary beings.'”

… had me like…

It’s been a while since I’ve read a traditional book. The thing about reading this way versus on my usual Kindle is I actually felt the book ending in my hands. Within the first few pages I found myself having a lovefest with this book, and I as the characters began to interact and change, I couldn’t wait to see what would ultimately happen to them all. But, as the book began to feel thinner toward the back cover, I started to worry: would  I run out of pages before the story reached its natural conclusion? At 10 pages from the end I was terrified it wouldn’t wrap up in time. It was a photo finish, but it did. I loved how Jake and Anthony came together at the end with Delia and Cassie – that was beautiful. The end of Marcus’ story was also beautiful, but made my heart hurt. Mrs. Featherby’s ending made me sad, mainly because she left so abruptly (she was my favorite after all!). But mainly I loved that although the characters were connected, but not so much that everyone was having tea together by the end. This was such a beautiful read. Andrew Kaufman was right; the world is fantastic.

3 thoughts on “Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson

  1. Oh gosh, yes, that quotation about humans being temporary things. I experience this all too often, as a naturally anxious person. Glad you loved this one so much!

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