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Summary

What if you could tell the truth about who you are, without risking losing the one you love? This is an audiobook about love affairs and why we choose to have them; a book for anyone who has ever loved and wondered what it is all about. This is an audiobook about the things we hide from other people. Love affairs, grief, domestic strife and the mess at the bottom of your handbag.  

This is an audiobook about journeys and paths through life - those we choose to take and those we don’t. And the difficulties of taking those steps. It is set mostly on trains.

Part memoir, part imagined history, in The Lost Properties of Love, Sophie Ratcliffe reflects on the realities of motherhood and marriage, revisits the experience of childhood bereavement and muses on the messiness of everyday life.

An extended train journey frames the action - and the author turns not to self-help manuals but to the fictions that have shaped our emotional and romantic landscape. Listeners will find themselves propelled into Anna Karenina’s world of steam, commuting down the Northern Line with the Railway Children and checking out a New York L-train with Anthony Trollope’s forgotten muse, Kate Field.

As scenes in her own life collide with the stories of real and imaginary heroines, The Lost Properties of Love asks how we might find new ways of thinking about love and intimacy in the 21st century. Frank and painfully funny, this contemporary take on Brief Encounter is a compelling look at the workings of the human heart.

©2019 Sophie Ratcliffe (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic reviews

"Perceptive...relishable." (Independent)

"A real and gripping story." (A. N. Wilson, Times Literary Supplement)

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Funny, Moving, and Insightful

As its title suggests, 'The Lost Properties of Love' is about the people, places, and (oh so many) things we lose and leave behind on our way through life, and the strange grip they often have on us long after our grip on them has loosened.

A summary of the book doesn't do justice to how deftly it weaves together the past and the present, personal reflection and critical insight, fact and fiction. It also risks spoiling its surprises. Through a series of real, imagined, and remembered train journeys, Ratcliffe tells the linked stories of her response to the early death of her father when she was a teenager, her time as the 'other person' in a well-established marriage while in her twenties, and her experiences as a (constantly travelling) parent, writer, and academic in the present.

There are passages about grief, about parenthood, about the contents of handbags, about the glorious luxury of making a mess. Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is a constant and fantastically humanised travelling companion. The vibrant and ambitious Kate Field - a nineteenth-century journalist, lecturer, and 'new woman', who may have had an affair with Anthony Trollope - is another. Lines cross, diverge, loop back, and take us to destinations both familiar and unexpected.

Ratcliffe's tone is warm, generous, and wry. Her eye for detail is often astonishing. Like the best teachers, she communicates her insights, discoveries, and enthusiasms with an infectious excitement. However, like the best storytellers, she also knows when to let a moment speak for itself.

Though Ratcliffe grapples with big ideas and weighty themes, she does so with grace and charm, wearing her learning on her sleeve. Like the work of Maggie Nelson and Emilie Pine at their best, 'The Lost Properties of Love' weaves together insights from lived experience and critical theory without ever letting the philosophical swamp the personal. In its refusal to shy away from the physical and emotional clutter of sex, marriage, and motherhood, and its constant attention to the grain of women's lives, it is a quietly but insistently feminist book.

Wise, witty, and compassionate, the book is clever without ever being clever-clever. Like the best train journeys, it is full of the delicately invigorating shock of a new perspective on the quotidian and familiar. And like the best railway reads, it's so engrossing that you're likely to miss your stop.

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