‘Most beguiling – the author has something of Victoria Wood’s funny bone in her DNA’

RJ Askew – 5 stars

Roz Morris’s Not Quite Lost is bonkers in a most beguiling way because the author has something of Victoria Wood’s funny bone in her DNA.

Her journey kicks off in the most wistfully English of ways, by poring over a lost family home. I was immediately there, on message, following the author around from room to room, life to life almost, as she recounted the aftermath of her parents’ divorce, which was symbolised by the eventual fate of the family home. I began pondering my own family home, my own family. I was in full wist mode – and loving it.

There followed an episodic and impression-rich journey around some of very pleasant, if occasionally hair-raising corners of England. That said, I didn’t read Not Quite Lost as a travelogue about place, but more as a personal journey in search of self, possibility, and fulfilment, the universal journey.

I especially enjoyed the Novemberish mood evinced throughout which was especially engaging when things didn’t quite work, or weren’t quite right, but were always somehow sorted in the end. It was like watching someone desperate to dance but who wasn’t entirely sure of their co-ordination, but who danced anyway.

I relished the writing, too, which consistently delivered nourishing dabs. A balustrade, the last remnant of a country house, became ‘a line of pawns’. And ships in the distance moved like ‘clock hands’. The white walls and silvered oak beams of a medieval hall gave it, ‘the cosy look of favourite pyjamas that had faded through many years in the wash’.

The hall seemed to come alive in the rain, its thatch protecting everything perfectly, as though there is something about old English ways that holds our souls together, or refreshes them.

Just when I thought I knew exactly where I was with the read, the story took a surprising leap which began with the author giving an insight into her journey as a writer. No spoilers here, thank you very much. You will have to read to find out what happened, but it was dramatic, dynamic, and enlivening. And it will in all likelihood have you heading to Youtube to see the outcome. It did me. Funny old world.

And a big shout to Dave who is ever present in the story as a sort of keel. Hi, Dave! I came to like Dave very much.

The author mentioned her liking for going into clothes shops on a just-in-case basis and chronicles her experience of one or two posh emporiums out in the shires of England, where the prices were silly and the owners grasping. Pursuing the theme, it is as if, when writing Not Quite Lost, Roz Morris found her way into The Writers’ Number One Charity Shop where – after snooping around amongst the unwanted plots, bits-n-bobs of ideas, maybe settings and not-quite characters – she was inspired to concoct an ensemble of her own this-n-thats which when deftly drawn together works wonderfully well. And left me thinking the result definitely dances the dance.

Oh, and the title of this review refers to how she felt after a unique gym workout in a stately folly with 150 steps on the outskirts of Bath.

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