I first read/heard about The Room of Lost Things over at Dove Grey Reader and it has taken me a little while to track down a copy of the book in Australia but I finally managed to find it in a trip to Sydney for work this past week - and I am so glad I did.
The Room of Lost Things is essentially a portrait of a specific area of London and the characters/people that live and work there. I have only been to London once (a sad fact I plan to rectify when I visit there again in September) and then it was really only a quick stop over, a browse through some tourist areas and then on to our next destination. But I know deep down that London is a city for me - I would love to live there one day. The London portrayed in Stella Duffy's book is the modern day south London an area described by one reviewer on the back cover of the book as "a part of London usually demonised as home to muggings, shootings and feral gangs".
The two main characters in the novel are Robert, a man in his 60's reflecting back on his life as her prepares to sell his dry cleaning business to Akeel, a young, married Muslim man just starting out in life after finishing his university degree.
Through the, at first, tentative interactions between Robert and Akeel we start to learn a little about their dreams and secret lives as we are also introduced to the various residents of the area who are customers of the dry cleaning business.
The main and outlying stories build beautifully, and in some cases painfully. I started to build up a concrete picture in my mind of this area and the people who lived there - I was enjoying the visit and really didn't want to story to end. But it does end - in a wonderful way I thought. I will definitely be looking out for more of Stella Duffy's work - and would love to hear other reading recommendations for great books set in modern day London.