This story tells a year from the life of the sixteen-year-old Rosemary Savage who comes from Tasmania to NewYork City. Although the novel also covers the backstory of the protagonist in the beginning chapters, the real action in the book takes place during the year Rosemary works in a specialty bookstore in Manhattan.
Young, inexperienced, and alone in Manhattan, Rosemary ends up in the Martha Washington Hotel for Women and through whim and instinct or the grace of Fate, she manages to secure a job in a major bookstore, the Arcade, which mostly specializes in rare and used books for collectors. Each section in the bookstore is filled with eccentric and original characters. Without going too much into the plot, I can say that this author’s art shines through her depiction of these characters as well as that of the protagonist.
Around the half-point mark in the book, the plot twists into a slight mystery-suspense regarding a lost manuscript written by Herman Melville, but still, the novel doesn't lose its original intent of being a coming-of-age story. In fact, the strength of human spirit is especially stressed in this young girl’s determination of overcoming the difficulties on her path and seizing the control of her life.
Since I love bookstores and all novels where books are a major part of them, I enjoyed this story very much. The novel, in general, is a bit sad, yet sweet, gentle, and hopeful and offers several thought-provoking moments. Although I had the feeling that Sheridan Hay did push Rosemary to succeed instead of letting her decide, this didn’t take away from the author's art and astute insight into characterization, especially where the other people that came into Rosemary’s life were concerned.
The storytelling is fluid with beautifully chosen words but without being florid and ornate; therefore, just the storytelling alone encourages a reader to read without stopping.
Eighteen years old and completely alone, Rosemary arrives in New York from Tasmania with little other than her love of books and an eagerness to explore the city. Taking a job at a vast, chaotic emporium of used and rare books called the Arcade, she knows she has found a home. But when Rosemary reads a letter from someone seeking to “place” a lost manuscript by Herman Melville, the bookstore erupts with simmering ambitions and rivalries. Including actual correspondence by Melville, The Secret of Lost Things is at once a literary adventure and evocative portrait of a young woman making a life for herself in the city.