Despite the title, I won’t be lost for words reviewing this lovely book. It is full of characters you will take to your heart and I loved the way the story unfolded. Loveday Cardew is a young woman in her twenties, quite a spiky character, who works in an independent bookshop in York owned by the wonderfully eccentric Archie. Some years previously as a young girl, as the story hints at and gradually reveals, she suffered terrible loss. This is one of the reasons she now wants to be so self-sufficient and closes herself off from most relationships. She guards her past secrets well and doesn’t discuss them with anyone. So when some books arrive at her bookshop which suggest that someone knows about her past and is trying to send her a message, she feels that her carefully constructed life may be about to fall apart.
As with Stephanie Butland’s previous novels, the story takes place over a few time frames. The present day story is related under chapters called Poetry, reflecting how Loveday is beginning to attend poetry evenings and share her own poetry. Chapters from the recent past looking at her relationship with ex-boyfriend Rob are entitled Crime and chapters dealing with Loveday’s childhood are appropriately named History. There was also a particularly poignant chapter called Memoir.
There were a few small details which really caught my attention. I loved the idea that having to finish a chapter of a book is an acceptable reason to be late for work! And I really liked the notice-board Loveday had in the bookshop for things ‘Found in a Book’. It made me think about the strangest thing I had ever found in a book but I don’t think I’ve found anything very interesting. I did buy a second hand Nigella cookbook once which had lots of notes in the margins (marginalia as I discovered it is called). Some were just suggested changes to the recipe but some were things like ‘this is Mark’s favourite’ or ‘must try this when Jane and Martin come round!’
It is the characters which make this a very special book. Part of me wanted to wrap Loveday in a hug and to look after her but of course there’s no way she would let anyone do that. She’s a character you want to protect from the heartbreak that she feels she has to hide from everyone. She is scared to let herself love and be loved and with what she has gone through and how she has been let down in the past who could blame her? Could magician and poet Nathan be the one to break through her barriers?
Archie is also a fabulous character. Larger than life with a huge heart and capacity to love. Archie has had the most unconventional life with many hints at the adventures in his past. While reading about him, I had a picture of Simon Callow in mind! He was such a generous, caring character and the quiet compassion he showed Loveday was enough to make me love him.
Lost for Words is a book I adored. It’s full of warmth with wonderful characters and it’s full of the magic and power of books. If you love books set in bookshops, you’ll love it. If you love books about damaged people learning to love again, you’ll love it. If you love books with quirky characters, you’ll love it. In fact, if you love any beautifully written story, you’ll love Lost For Words!
A few weeks ago, I was ‘chatting’ with Stephanie in a Facebook group we are both members of. I had just read the part of the book where Archie has brought Loveday some home-made chicken soup when she was feeling ill. I mentioned that I thought it sounded delicious and said I’d love to have the recipe. So I was delighted when Emily Burns, the publicist at Bonnier Zaffre, got in touch to ask if I’d like to include it with my blogpost.
Archie’s Chicken Soup
Loveday Cardew is the heroine of LOST FOR WORDS and Archie Brodie, a man with more stories to tell than the bookshop he owns, is her boss. When Loveday gets ill with a ‘fluey virus, Archie comes to her rescue, arriving on her doorstep with a pot of chicken soup. Although Loveday is annoyed with him – he barges in, opens the windows, and tells her to take a shower – his soup more than makes up for it. This soup is typical of Archie: nurturing, extravagant, full of love and goodness.
This is a healing, nourishing soup that has a lot of ingredients but takes very little making. You can vary the vegetables you add to suit the season, or what’s left in the fridge!
1 chicken – if it’s corn-fed, so much the better
1.5 litres of water
2 chicken stock cubes and 1 vegetable stock cube, dissolved in a mug of boiling water
500ml white wine or sherry (or a mix of these, or any mix of leftover wine that’s around – red works too)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon each of dried parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
8 black peppercorns (uncrushed)
1 whole head garlic, rinsed but unpeeled
1 lemon, cut in half
4 sticks of celery, halved
4 carrots, peeled but left whole
2 onions, peeled and halved
200g arborio rice
Salt, to taste
Part 2 (optional)
100g fresh or frozen peas
2 sticks celery, very finely chopped
a leek, very finely chopped
fresh basil, finely chopped
Take the biggest stockpot or pan you have. Put in all of the ingredients from Part 1. If the chicken isn’t completely covered, add some more water.
Put the pan on a high heat until the soup is bubbling, then turn it down to the lowest possible heat, put a tight-fitting lid on it, and leave it to simmer for at least 90 minutes. (If you leave it for longer it doesn’t matter.) Give it a stir every 20 minutes or so, just to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom. Top up the water level if it’s getting low.
When the chicken is soft and falling apart, remove it from the pan and put it to one side. Retrieve and discard the onions, celery, bay leaves, head of garlic, and lemon. Retrieve and keep the carrots.
Carefully take the meat from the chicken bones – you should be able to tear it off with a fork. Discard the chicken carcass and skin. Chop the meat into small-ish pieces and return it to the pan. Chop the cooked carrots and return them to the pan, too. Add salt to taste. Now you have a rich, flavoursome chicken soup with rice, herbs and carrots.
You can gently heat the soup and serve it as it is, or you can add the Part 2 ingredients and simmer the soup for 20 minutes or so until the celery and leek are cooked through.
Serve in warmed bowls.
Thanks to the publishers for my copy of the book. Lost for Words will be published on 20th April in paperback and as an e-book. You can order a copy online here: Lost for Words
From the back of the book
Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look closely, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are things she’ll never show you.
Fifteen years ago Loveday lost all she knew and loved in one unspeakable night. Now, she finds refuge in the unique little York bookshop where she works.
Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past. Someone is trying to send her a message. And she can’t hide any longer.
About the author
Stephanie Butland lives in Northumberland, close to the place where she grew up. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and loves being close to the sea. She’s thriving after cancer.
Find her on Twitter: @under_blue_sky
At her website: www.stephaniebutland.com