Thursday, 26 March 2015

Book review: The Museum of Things Left Behind by Seni Glaister


My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 21 May 2015 by Fourth Estate, 421 pages.

Description: Vallerosa is every tourist’s dream – a tiny, picturesque country surrounded by lush valleys and verdant mountains; a place sheltered from modern life and the rampant march of capitalism. But in isolation, the locals have grown cranky, unfulfilled and disaffected. In the Presidential Palace hostile Americans, wise to the country’s financial potential, are circling like sharks …

Can the town be fixed? Can the local bar owners be reconciled? Can an unlikely visitor be the agent of change and rejuvenation this broken idyll is crying out for?

Rating:



The Museum of Things Left Behind is situated in the idyllic Vallerosa, a small country in the European mountains. Not many people know about this picturesque place and there are no specific transport links for tourists, so the occasional visitor tends to wind up in the little nation by accident. That is, until the President receives a letter from the United Kingdom announcing a very special visit from a Duke. The ministers are soon gathered and an itinerary, worthy of royalty, is planned.

But when two visitors arrive at the same time, one a grumpy American, the other a beautiful blonde women, neither seem to fit the image of the Duke of Edinburgh the President and his constituents had in mind. Not deterred by the unexpectedness of the visitors, the people of Vallerosa are determined to give Lizzie a royal welcome and make her stay a memorable one.

From the book's title and blurb I expected a quirky read set in a utopian nation and that's exactly what the pages of this novel held. The quiet Vallerosa, with its lush surroundings, came across as a beautiful country – one I would love to visit myself one day. Despite being completely fictional, there were elements that sounded similar to other places in Europe, creating a sense of familiarity, and author Seni Glaister's rich descriptions really made the nation come alive on the pages.

While it took me some time to be able to tell all the characters apart, particularly the government members who all had impossible names and similar occupations, such as Minister for the Exterior and Minister for the Interior; as well as Minister of Leisure and Minister of Recreation, once the visitors arrive the reader becomes acquainted with the people of Vallerosa through the eyes of the Lizzie and it becomes easier to get immersed into the unique story.

We learn that the Vallerosans are very set in their ways and it may take months for the simplest changes to be implemented by the government. For instance, the clock in the main piazza hasn't worked for many years because the ministers don't want to ask the one person qualified for the job directly to fix it. From an outsider's point of view it seems impossible for a nation to be run like that, which is why Lizzie is determined to make some positive change during her visit.

While I loved all the peculiarities found in Vallerosa, such as the silent rivalry between two adjacent bars, and a museum collection made up of things left behind or washed ashore, I found some of the sentiments within the book strangely backwards. The views of the people may have been set back a few decades because Vallerosa is such an isolated nation and time doesn't pass the same way as it does in the rest of Europe, but it felt like the author agreed with some of the prejudiced views and that was a shame.

Nonetheless, The Museum of Things Left Behind was an incredibly unique novel of a very special place. The first few chapters may be a tad confusing, as densely filled as they are with foreign names and places, perseverance does pay off; the quirky story within the pages is a fascinating and charming one.

You can pre-order the novel from Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk or your own preferred retailer.



Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with her online at:

Twitter: @bookpeopleseni


Many thanks to Lovereading for an advance copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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