2016 Reviews · Australian

Book review: Precious Things by Kelly Doust

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Book blurb:

PRECIOUS THINGS tells the story of a collar – a wonderful, glittering beaded piece – and its journey through the decades. It’s also the story of Maggie, an auctioneer living in modern-day London, who comes across the crumpled, neglected collar in a box of old junk, and sets out on an unexpected mission to discover more about its secret and elusive past.

Maggie has a journey of her own too. Juggling a demanding job, a clingy young child and a rebellious stepdaughter, and with her once-solid marriage foundering under the pressure of a busy life, Maggie has to find out the hard way that you can’t always get what you want… but sometimes, you’re lucky enough to get precisely what you need.

This is a wonderful, absorbing and moving novel about desire, marriage and family, telling the story about how we so often reach out for the sparkly, shiny things (and people) we desire, only to realise – in the nick of time – that the most precious things are the ones we’ve had with us all along.

4 stars

Precious Things is the delicate tale of the history, lives and loves behind an exquisite antique dress collar. Woven into this intricate novel is the story of a young woman in the present day, Maggie, who discovers the collar in an abandoned box in her job as an antiques auctioneer. Upon her unearthing of the collar, Maggie feels inspired to find out the origins of the collar. What follows is an absorbing journey that takes Maggie from modern day London, right across the globe to a range of colourful cities and forgotten eras in time.

Precious Things contains an ambitious and far reaching narrative. Through Maggie, who discovers the collar in present day, the reader discovers that the origins of the lace collar dates back to 1891, where a young woman in Normandy sews it to her wedding dress. The collar then makes its journey across countries and time as it skips from Shanghai to Rome and Istanbul. As Maggie unfurls the mystery of the many owners of the lace collar, she also deals with various life problems. The reader learns that Maggie is struggling to cope with the demands of a troubled step daughter, repair her crumbling marriage and juggle her demanding young daughter with her career aspirations. These are day to day troubles that many readers will find they can relate to.  As the history of the collar is revealed through Maggie’s investigations, Maggie also learns about the importance of holding onto her own ‘precious things’.

Precious Things is an earnest novel for a debut author. Kelly Doust draws on a subject she is familiar with, her background in writing about craft and design gives her good standing to begin her first novel. Doust shares her passion for uncovering the hidden histories of fashion pieces in an absorbing style through the process of writing her novel, Precious Things. I absolutely loved the concept of this novel and the prologue on the conception of the collar had me hooked. As a fan of op shop and vintage pieces, I am often left wondering about the hidden history behind these items. Doust explores this idea well, offering a wide range of appealing storylines, locations and eras to the piece in question, a beaded collar. These parts of the novel held me captive, I loved many of the stories so much that I wanted more depth and a continuation of these aspects of the collar’s story. Maggie is an essential part of piecing together the story of the collar, but there were times I felt bogged down by her host of problems. I longed to move away from Maggie’s difficulties at times and return to one of the many interesting threads on the collar’s owners. On the whole, I was impressed by the novel and where it was able to transport its reader.

Precious Things is a contemporary women’s fiction novel that focuses on the areas central to our being – love, family, marriage and career. It also offers the reader more by sewing a patchwork of histories together that are united by a fascinating fashion object, a beaded collar. Precious Things is a multi layered and dazzling first novel by an author I am looking forward to reading more from.

Precious Things was published in 2016 by Harper Collins Australia.http://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460750971/

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