The Hoarder by Jess Kidd

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The Hoarder by Jess Kidd

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A tale that combines the absurd with the extraordinary to compelling effect, The Hoarder is a read filled with intriguing mysteries and compelling characters
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: February 2018
Publisher: Canongate Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1782118497

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Cathal Flood is an old, belligerent man, living in a filthy, crowded house that was once a family home. When Maud Drennan – underpaid carer and unintentional psychic is employed to look after the ancient Cathal, she assumes she'll just be the next in a long line of short-term dogsbodies for the old man. Instead, Maud finds herself drawn into the mysteries concealed within Cathal's once great house – and as Maud begins to clean and sort the rooms she uncovers secrets about the old man that awaken long-hidden memories within Maud herself. With the aid of her highly glamourous yet utterly agoraphobic landlady and a troop of holy ghosts, Maud must uncover the secrets at the heart of the house – and exactly why they were buried…

Jess Kidd is a London based author – her first novel, Himself was published in 2016 to considerable acclaim, and was a witty, original and unforgettable novel set in the Ireland of the 1970s. Here, Kidd moves her story to the modern day, but makes sure that her wit and originality are still at the forefront of her writing, creating a truly memorable read in The Hoarder. When I first read the blurb for this book, the references to psychics, ghosts and an agoraphobic landlady, had me believing that it would be a relatively light read – a humorous romp about a cranky, lovable old man and a fun, poignant, but not all that memorable mystery at the heart of things. Instead, Kidd builds something far cleverer – the combination of emotion and tenderness with humour and playfulness allows Kidd to manage a brilliant balance of light and dark – veering from fantastic moments of comedy through to painful, emotional darkness. That balance isn't something I initially saw, so it did take me a while to be properly gripped in The Hoarder, although there's no denying that the characters have an immediacy to them. When I was gripped though, I was in it for the long haul – racing through the book on a cold Sunday afternoon.

The characters are what really push the action along and keep the reader invested, and they're fantastic creations. Maud is instantly likeable, Cathal grouchy but intriguing, and landlady Renata steals every scene she appears in – a fascinating and rather tragic character bedecked in fabulous wigs and outrageous bejewelled outfits. Humanity and family are key aspects of this story, and it's impressive that Kidd brings these aspects to life so clearly – with the dysfunctional Flood family, Maud's memories of family life and the goings-on of the new family that Maud has gathered around her – there's a sense of relatability and almost mundanity here that helps balance out the perhaps more extreme elements of the story that Kidd introduces. The main element, of course, being the fact that unintentional psychic Maud is regularly accompanied by ghosts of various Catholic Saints – making for moments that are often laugh out loud funny, and yet sometimes adding an extra layer of feeling and pathos to an already moving and surprisingly tender plot. The odd mix of elements is what makes this book original and, I imagine, memorable – and I'm very much looking forward to seeing what author Jess Kidd does next.

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy, and for further reading I recommend Things We Couldn't Explain by Betsy Tobin – another read that combines the mundane with the extraordinary to compelling effect.

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