Published by Doubleday
Publication date – 10 March 2016
Source – review copy
“Martha is lost.
She’s been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she’s waited in station lost property for someone to claim her. It’s been sixteen years, but she’s still hopeful.
In the meantime, there are mysteries to solve: secret tunnels under the station, a suitcase that may have belonged to the Beatles, the roman soldier who appears at the same time every day with his packed lunch. Not to mention the stuffed monkey that someone keeps misplacing.
But there is one mystery Martha cannot solve. And now the authorities have found out about the girl in lost property. Time is running out – if Martha can’t discover who she really is, she will lose everything…”
Read more on the Penguin website.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher and this is my honest opinion of the book.
Martha has lived in Lime Street Station all of her life. She was left at the Lost Property Office and sat on the shelf for 90 days unclaimed, according to Mother. After that she was raised by Mother, a God-fearing woman who has told Martha that the that the Devil is waiting for her in the cellar and that rock music is the Devil’s work. She has never celebrated her birthday, been to school, visited a doctor or left Lime Street Station. Now the authorities are aware of her and she must prove who she is, otherwise she will have to leave the only home she has ever known. Martha is good at finding lost things. Can she find herself?
I absolutely adored this book and couldn’t get enough of it. It was with wistful sadness that I read the last page and had to say goodbye to Martha, Elisabeth, William, George Harris and Lime Street Station.
Martha is a character who instantly appeals. She spins instead of walking, she has secret treasure hidden under the train station and she has been told, and believes, that Lime Street Station will collapse into rubbles if she ever leaves it. She has had to put up with a lot in her short life, growing up with Mother has not been easy and she is a complex mix of young child, who has hopes and day dreams, and a young woman who has had to grow up fast. She is aware she was left at the station, told a story of lies interspersed with truth, and longs to find out more about herself, and to be loved. This leads her to draw out the process of finding her birth certificate so that she can communicate with the person who seems to know all about her but who corresponds only through books. It also means she clings to a person who is not as honest and open, who has ulterior motives that would be obvious to others. Martha is quirky and different but is not treated as so by her friends. Elisabeth, William and George all see her as the loving, kind person she is and accept her as she is. Elisabeth is funny, caring and protective and it is wonderful to see the effect that William and George have on Martha, and how she changes their lives for the better without even realising it.
The setting also makes the story. It is 1976, in the height of the heat wave, there is another rumour that The Beatles will be reforming and a suitcase supposedly of Beatles memorabilia collected by roadie Mal Evans has been found. The story of this suitcase and Mal Evans’ missing ashes are integral to the story. The station shows Martha that there is life to be lived, conversely and rather cruelly in some respects, as she sees people travelling to imagined destinations, sees lives being lived, loves met and lost, all the while aware that she is missing out. The lost property office where she works allows her to be more involved in the lives of others, happily reuniting owners with lost items, and rehoming other unclaimed items, providing these things with the care that she as an unclaimed ‘item’ never received.
There is something reminiscent of Roald Dahl about this story, it has a magical, slightly surreal feel to it, is full of unique characters and has the right mix of laughter, sadness and slight menace and darkness that typified Dahl’s work. It has been likened to Amelie and Hugo and I’d agree that it has the whimsical delightful tone that Amelie projects. I think this story would also make a wonderful film and would love to see Martha and her friends immortalised on screen.
This book is pitch perfect, there isn’t one thing I would change about it. it is funny, sad, whimsical, dark, touching and utterly charming. As Elisabeth would say, it’s a bobby dazzler of a book.
I’m envious of anyone who is still to read this for the first time. If you enjoy it half as much as I did you’re in for a treat.