Title: The Keeper of Stories
Author: Sally Page
Publisher: 28th February 2022 by HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter
Pages: 250 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary
My Rating: 5 cups
She can’t recall what started her collection. Maybe it was in a fragment of conversation overheard as she cleaned a sink? Before long (as she dusted a sitting room or defrosted a fridge) she noticed people were telling her their stories. Perhaps they always had done, but now it is different, now the stories are reaching out to her and she gathers them to her…
Cleaner Janice knows that it is in people’s stories that you really get to know them. From recently-widowed Fiona and her son Adam; to opera-singing Geordie; and the awful Mrs ‘YeahYeahYeah’ and her fox terrier, Decius, Janice has a unique insight into the community around her.
When Janice starts cleaning for Mrs B – a shrewd and tricky woman in her nineties – she finally meets someone who wants to hear her story. But Janice is clear: she is the keeper of stories, she doesn’t have a story to tell. At least, not one she can share.
Mrs B is no fool and knows there is more to Janice than meets the eye. What is she hiding? After all, doesn’t everyone have a story to tell?
‘Everyone has a story to tell. But what if you don’t have a story? What then? If you are Janice, you become a collector of other people’s stories.’
The Keeper of Stories is a superb book - brilliant in fact - one to certainly treasure. I found it to be beautifully written with such heartfelt emotion across a wide cross selection of themes and characters. I simply love the concept of collecting stories whilst unknowingly unraveling one kept so close to your own heart. Sally has penned an intelligent yet thoughtful book that is sure to endear itself to many readers.
The lead character, Janice, is the key to this eclectic cast of characters and she is superb. Quiet and unassuming, ‘just a cleaner’, who goes about her everyday life gathering other peoples stories. I simply adored Janice - she is pivotal not only to the other sub stories sprinkled throughout but also to the great life lesson in finding your very own story.
“In my stories, and I do collect stories…” She feels a sense of relief at saying this out loud. “I love that normal people do the unexpected, that they are courageous, funny, kind … selfless. I know these people have faults - of course, that’s life.”
This is such a character driven tale and testament to the writing, I was not confused once as to who was who. The care that Janice provides to each of her clients is special - just like she is. There are some wonderful characters but it would be remiss of me not to give a big shout out to Mrs B and Decius the swearing fox-terrier. As Janice cleans and cares, she collects the essence of conversations she hears - some are special and many are very funny - but all very believable and relatable.
‘She wants to hammer home with true conviction that she is the story collector. That she gathers stories because she doesn’t have a story. She wants to shout this loudly to drown the little voice within her.’
Then there Janice’s own story - and she does have a story - but has hidden it away. Digging deeper you can see that topics such as suicide, our treatment of the elderly and alcoholism are sensitively handled with this book offering varying degrees of depth and sentiment but all up providing such truth through its tender writing. You will be cheering loudly for Janice and dearly hope she gets her happily ever after from a past that has confined and defined her for too long.
I absolutely loved every moment spent with Janice and in particular her time with Mrs B - “I bloody love you, Mrs B!” This is a book I shall not soon forget for its sublime writing and storytelling from start to finish. I cannot recommend highly enough The Keeper of Stories and can't wait to see what Sally Page offers her readers next.
“I listen to the quiet voices.” Janice stops and looks at him. “What do you mean?” “I figured out long ago that if I listen to the few people who shout at me, I am making them more important than they are. What they say will stay with me, upset me, and those loud voices will go on and on, even when the shouting has stopped. So instead I listen very carefully for the quiet voices - which is most people. The people who teach a perfect lesson with nobody knowing.”
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.