Stephanie Butland’s third novel, Lost for Words, is set in a secondhand bookshop in the walled city of York, two of my favourite places to wander around. And while the bookshop on the cover may look quirky and cute at first glance, there are shadows lurking inside it. Much like its main character Loveday.
Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are some things Loveday will never show you.
Into her refuge – the York book emporium where she works – come a poet, a lover, a friend, and three mysterious deliveries, each of which stirs unsettling memories.
Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past and she can’t hide any longer. She must decide who around her she can trust. Can she find the courage to right a heartbreaking wrong? And will she ever find the words to tell her own story?
I liked Loveday Cardew from the instant I met her in Lost for Words. True, Stephanie Butland’s main character was talking books but there was something in her voice that sparked recognition. Once she rescued a book further down that same first page, I was smitten. I mean, what reader wouldn’t love someone who saves abandoned books and later tries to reunite them with their owner? Even without it being on a rainy day. Loveday’s a book person; she’s one of us.
Although Loveday seems lost at times, and is certainly withdrawn and lonely, her inner voice is strong and sassy. Some may even say sarcastic. She’s a spiky character but she’s also a survivor, partly wearing those favourite first lines of hers tattooed on her body as inked-on armour to protect her.
Loveday has a caring, watchful protector in its wonderful owner, Archie, but it’s in Lost for Words itself, the bookshop of the title, where she finds her refuge. That is, until books start bringing a poet and worse, unsettling memories from the past, into her previously safe haven and disturbing her peace.
This is a book for anyone who’s ever dreamed of spending their days in a bookshop. More especially, it’s for anyone who’s ever fled reality and sought comfort in the world of books: a place which offers an escape, protection against the real world and somewhere to hide out. Lost for Words illustrates how books connect us and can be a way of reaching out to us when we’ve all but shut ourselves off from the world.
Filled with literary references, spoken word events and original poetry, and an eclectic cast of characters, Stephanie Butland’s novel will warm the heart of any book lover. It will also then promptly proceed to break it, possibly even shatter it, before collecting up the pieces and stitching them back together again.
A beautiful, heartrending story of learning to open up and let people into your life, Lost for Words is a warm and tender novel, full of gentle understanding. I fell in love with both it and its characters.
Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland is published by Zaffre, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK and is available as an audiobook, ebook and in paperback. You can find it at Amazon UK or buy it from Hive where purchases support your local independent bookshop). You can find more information about Stephanie Butland and her books on her Author Website, or on Facebook and on Twitter.
My thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy and making one available via NetGalley.
*GIVEAWAY* I have one paperback of Lost for Words to give away. Leave a comment below and the squirrels will pick a winner.