I see I’ve been posting more about gardening than about books lately, so here’s two book posts on the trot.
It took me a while to get into The Museum of Things Left Behind and start laughing. That’s because I was totally confused. Where are we? What’s the date? Who are all these people with strange names? It was like the first time I read a book by Violet Needham; I thought it was a Ruritanian historical novel until people started using the telephone and driving motor cars. The publishers say, ‘FIND YOURSELF IN VALLEROSA, A PLACE LOST IN TIME’, so suspend disbelief. I’d say not so much lost in time as out of time.
Vallerosa is … somewhere in Europe. Very few people find it because it’s basically a gorge, which is hard to access as there’s no airport. The principle crop and the mainstay of all Vallerosan life is tea. In Europe? Yes, and tea with exceptional qualities. The political system is an ‘elected dictatorship’ in which ministerial posts are hereditary and the bureaucracy is crippling. For generations, little has changed yet the people have been happy: until now. The birth rate is low, the president fears revolution, an American ‘consultant’ wants the country to export its precious tea and join the modern world. Really, he’s out to exploit the country and you can tell he’s no good because he regards the kindly inhabitants as ‘barbarians’.
Then Lizzie comes on the scene. She’s a young, attractive Englishwoman from a wealthy background. Due to a misunderstanding, the Vallerosans expect her to be ‘a royal personage’ and give her the royal treatment, even after the president has discovered his mistake. Wherever she goes, Lizzie is a sensation. Everyone wants to please her and she falls in love with the whole place and its citizens. Seeing what’s wrong, she sets out to cut the bureaucratic knots and set things right. Unlikely? Yes, of course it is but the book is really a fable about how it might be possible to run a society which works for all, whatever their social position. It reminded me of Dornford Yates’ The Stolen March, without the magic. Improbable but, in the end, rather charming.
The book will be out next month and I read it courtesy of NetGalley.