Wednesday 22 January 2014


Book review: Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase by Louise Walters

My edition: paperback (proof), to be published on 27th February 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 294 pages.

Description: Roberta likes to collect the letters and postcards she finds in second-hand books. When her father gives her some of her grandmother's belongings, she finds a baffling letter from the grandfather she never knew - dated after he supposedly died in the war.

Dorothy is unhappily married to Albert, who is away at war. When an aeroplane crashes in the field behind her house she meets Squadron Leader Jan Pietrykowski, and as their bond deepens she dares to hope she might find happiness. But fate has other plans for them both, and soon she is hiding a secret so momentous that its shockwaves will touch her granddaughter many years later...


I clean books. I dust their spines, their pages, sometimes one at a time; painstaking, throat-catching work. I find things hidden in books: dried flowers, locks of hair, tickets, labels, receipt, invoices, photographs, postcards, all manner of cards. I find letters, unpublished works by the ordinary, the anguished, the illiterate. Clumsily written or eloquent, they are love letters, everyday letters, secret letters and mundane letters talking about fruit and babies and tennis matches, from people signing themselves as Majorie or Jean.

My boss, Phillip, long used to such finds, is blasé and whatever he finds, he places aside for me to look at. You can't keep everything, he reminds me. And, of course, he is right. But I can't bring myself to dispose of these snippets and snapshots of lives that once meant (or still do mean) so much.

It's unusual for me to put a quote in my review, especially such a large one, as it may spoil the story for prospective readers. Furthermore, while there are many novels I love it doesn't happen often that a particular bit stands out so much that I desperately want to take a highlighter to my book (I even use protective covers when reading so writing or highlighting anything in a book feels like sacrilege to me). This bit spoke to me so much however that I was very, very tempted. I managed to restraint myself though and instead wrote the text on a separate piece of paper so I can read it again and again without having to find the book in the many stacks in my room.

Main protagonist Roberta is introduced to the reader by this beautiful description which displays her love for books and the people who have cherished them. Working in a bookstore and having such a passion for novels I was instantly taken by her and had high hopes for her storyline, imagining it would be a book lovers' paradise. The other main character is her grandmother Dorothy, though her chapters mainly take place in the past to explain why there's a secret in her life that she's been hiding for decades.

While the book had an outstanding opening unfortunately the rest failed to live up to my expectations. There was certainly a lot of potential within the pages but I found the Roberta storyline soon rather boring and disengaging, there was little to be found of the love for books I had expected from my introduction to the character. I enjoyed Dorothy's chapters marginally more, which for the most part detailed a beautiful and heart-breaking story of war and love - even if the final few chapters felt somewhat rushed with a much too convenient conclusion.

Author Louise Walters' words are beautiful and on many occasions managed to evoke an emotion from the reader. For instance, when Roberta's world was crumbling down all around her a feeling of melancholy settled over me while I was reading the hardships she had to deal with. And there's certainly a solid story to be found within the pages, but in the end my disappointment that Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase was not quite as centred on the love of books as the cover and opening misleadingly led me believe, weighed heavier.

You can purchase a copy of the novel from,, Waterstones or your own preferred retailer.

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


Twitter: @LouiseWalters12

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

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