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…
When Janice starts cleaning for Mrs B – a shrewd and tricksy woman in her nineties – she 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?
A little break from the continuing saga of Kate vs Showbiz to review a book both Candice and I have enjoyed recently.
Janice is “just” a cleaner, and a remarkable individual. Well-regarded by her numerous employers, she is married to a man who can’t hold on to a job and has a few secrets of her own.
Meeting ex-spy Mrs B, the stories Janice has collected from people she works for and occasional snippets heard on the bus, start to come out. Much of this revolves around Mrs B telling her the tale of “Becky”, a courtesan who knew the Prince of Wales (as in Edward and Mrs Simpson) among others. Becky lived a hell of a life but always drove her own future. This helps to galvanise Janice to do the same.
The Keeper of Stories is an enjoyable read. If I’m honest, it starts slow, and only Candice telling me it was good kept me going, but by halfway through, the plot is moving, and I was snatching time to read another chapter – the sign of a good book.
The ending is pretty much how you’d like it to be, and I don’t mean this in a bad way. A couple of plot twists (one of which is after the story has finished) are dropped in at the end, serving to tie up loose ends and allow the reader to believe all will be well for a character that they will have grown to like.
As a character, Mrs B is interesting. When we first meet her, she is cantankerous, but it’s obvious that Janice is going to end up close to her and that without her, there would be no story. You could argue that there are a couple of handy coincidences, without which, the plot could be a lot grimmer, but this is a feel-good book, even though it takes some very serious subjects in its stride.