Janice – is ‘only a cleaner’. Her husband is fond of reminded her of this – despite the fact that she is the major breadwinner of the family. She is in her late forties and cannot remember a time when she loved this husband of hers. She is so, so lonely. She is also a worrier and her worries are many. She is encumbered by guilt – self-inflicted as most guilt is… She loves books, order and routine, and she collects people’s stories. She also loves a fox terrier who belongs to one of her clients. His name is Decius and he is prone to using foul language.
Mike – Janice’s husband, a waste of space – and a narcissist.
“She wants to ask if he’s having an affair, but doesn’t know how to say it without sounding hopeful.”
Decius – a small and untidy purebred fox terrier who adores Janice just as much as she adores him back. In their mutual conversations Janice is always astounded at how much Decius likes to swear.
Mrs. YeahYeahYeah – is married to Mr. NoNoNotNow. They are very wealthy and snobbish. They are the owners of the fox terrier that Janice loves and that is the only reason she continues to clean their house.
Geordie – a famous opera singer who, aptly, hails from Newcastle. He admires Janice both as his cleaner, and as a woman.
Fiona (and her son Adam) – Fiona is a recent widow. Her beloved husband John commit suicide and both Fiona and her twelve year old son are decimated by their grief. Janice cleans for them, and offers them friendship and wisdom when they sorely need it.
“When you are a child, you don’t ever think of yourself as young. You are just you, and will take up guilt and responsibility without noticing that they are far too large for you and that they are really things an adult should be wearing.”
Mrs. B – is ninety-three years old, irascible, cantankerous and ‘tricky’. She is the mother of Mr. NoNoNotNow and that is why Janice finds herself cleaning for her. She got the impression that the old lady wasn’t coping and would be put into a ‘home’ by her pompous son if she was letting things slide.
Oh Janice. You have left an indelible imprint on my heart!
“The Keeper of Stories” is about human nature with all its flaws and inconsistencies. A fabulous story about storytelling and about guilt. It showcases people who are selfish and narcissistic as well as people who are kindness personified. It also portrays the blessings of friendship, and the influence parents have over their children, both good and bad, and the love of a good dog (with a foul mouth).
The writing, the way the story was told and how it flowed, reminded me greatly of the work of Fredrik Backman. Anyone following my reviews will know that that is high praise from me indeed. Written with empathy and humour, it conveys the author’s love of books and story-telling with aplomb. It also serves to remind us that the elderly, the people with the richest and most abundant stories, should never be underestimated.
Life-affirming, hopeful fiction that can definitely fit into the ‘Uplit’ genre, this wonderful novel will definitely be on my list of ‘Best Books of 2022’. Highly recommended!
Digital & Audible: February 28, 2022 and Paperback: March 17, 2022
Available for pre-order now!
After studying history at university, Sally moved to London to work in advertising. In her spare time she studied floristry at night school and eventually opened her own flower shop. Sally came to appreciate that flower shops offer a unique window into people’s stories and she began to photograph and write about this floral life in a series of non-fiction books. Later, she continued her interest in writing when she founded her fountain pen company, Plooms.co.uk.
In her debut novel, The Keeper of Stories, Sally combines her love of history and writing with her abiding interest in the stories people have to tell. Sally now lives in Dorset. Her eldest daughter, Alex, is studying to be a doctor and her younger daughter is the author, Libby Page. Both are keen wild swimmers.