Of Things Gone Astray calls itself a magical fable, and the story provides all the wit and charm that you would expect from a novel of this genre. A group of (at the beginning of the novel) unconnected Londoners all lose something dear to them and the story watches them as they slowly make sense of this and what it means for their lives. The things they lose are both whimsical and allegorical: a lonely woman loses her front wall; a businessman loses his workplace.
One of the things I loved about this novel is how slow and gentle the narrative is, and how unassuming each of characters’ responses are to their situations. The chapters are short and focus on one character at a time, letting you watch them slowly and triumphantly come to terms with their individual losses.
This is a sweet, melancholy and thoughtful read. It’s Janina Matthewson’s first novel, and has all the freshness of a debut, although it could have done with a heavier editing as the prose can be too enthusiastic for its own good. It wasn’t until after I’d read it that I realised Mattewson is not only grew up in New Zealand, but in my home town. I promise this blog isn’t some kind of antipodean conspiracy. We just create some really great work.