Always give a book a fair chance. That especially applies to Fifteen Postcards by Kiwi author Kirsten McKenzie. this book intrigued me at first, but didn’t quite grab me. Then without realising it, I found I was hooked and the pages just kept turning.
Sarah Lester runs an antique shop in London called The Old Curiosity Shop. She has lost her parents, vanishing separately in mysterious circumstances and leaving her to run the family shop and breathe life into a flagging business.
McKenzie’s descriptions of the shop are well drawn and wonderfully evoke the jumbled chaos of layers of leftovers from centuries of everyday life. As the book progresses, the shop becomes the familiar setting of normality rather than the home of the unusual or the forgotten.
And there normality ends, as the purchase of a deceased estate of jumbled boxes leads Sarah on a journey, literally, through time. She finds that the objects transport her back to take on the life of four very different women in a variety of nineteenth century settings from Victorian London to gold rush New Zealand and finally the British Raj in India. Sarah has to fight her twenty-first century instincts and a century of emancipation in order to fit into the demands these different personalities put on her.
I enjoyed these period pieces, even if time travel might be unlikely. Sarah seems to take it all in her stride, although I think most people would be so freaked out by the shift through time that they would never have the wits about them to start impersonating someone. Sarah, as a true lover of antiques, is always looking for the chance to steal a few things to take back to her shop. That, at least, strikes a plausible note.
The lives that Sarah plunges into are authentically described. Along the way McKenzie furnishes Sarah with a treasure trove of valuable artifacts, which on her return to the present time she seeks to sell through Christie’s auction house. The tension and intrigue are maintained as Sarah looks for answers and can’t give up hope of finding her parents in this half world too. The postcards of the title give us clues to the eventual solution.
On a different note, there were numerous typographical errors in the book, mainly words running together. I know how hard these are to spot, especially when reading quickly, but for me to notice there must have been several. But don’t let that put you off an excellent story.