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Keeper of Stories

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

Title: Keeper of Stories

Author: Sally Page

Published: 28th February 2022

Genre: Romance, Humour, Fiction

Pages: 384

Start Date: 11th July 2022

Finish Date: 13th July 2022


She can’t recall what started her collection. Maybe it was in a fragment of conversation overheard as she cleaned a sink? Before long (as she dusted a sitting room or defrosted a fridge) she noticed people were telling her their stories. Perhaps they always had done, but now it is different, now the stories are reaching out to her and she gathers them to her.

Cleaner Janice knows that it is in people’s stories that you really get to know them. From recently-widowed Fiona and her son Adam; to opera-singing Geordie; and the awful Mrs ‘YeahYeahYeah’ and her fox terrier, Decius, Janice has a unique insight into the community around her.

When Janice starts cleaning for Mrs B , a shrewd and tricksy woman in her nineties, she finally meets someone who wants to hear her story. But Janice is clear: she is the keeper of stories, she doesn’t have a story to tell. At least, not one she can share.

Mrs B is no fool and knows there is more to Janice than meets the eye. What is she hiding? After all, doesn’t everyone have a story to tell?


This was a well-written story that really focuses on characterisation. It is what I would consider an ‘observational’ drama, and this feeds into Janice’s character as a ‘storyteller’ or, as some may call her, a bit of a gossip.

But Janice’s intentions are purely innocent and she recalls the stories she hears as a cleaner and on the bus. It is a way of keeping her company in a very isolated life. Whilst her clients are generally kind and accommodating, this is certainly lacking in her loveless marriage where her husband expects everything and gives nothing in return. It’s no wonder that Janice lives vicariously through the stories she has collected.

When Janice meets Mrs B one day, it is like she has met her match in storytelling. It would seem that Mrs B also has this gift and tells Janice a very lengthy story about a girl called Becky, whose tale travels around the globe and includes Princes and riches, plus a fair amount of drama too. It’s captivating for Janice, who recognises Mrs B’s story-telling qualities like her own.

Over time, Janice’s clients feature increasingly in the story. She draws away from her husband and turns to her friends for support and each use the other for a type of confession. Although this made the story quite a different read, I was expecting something a little bit more on offer. Yes, there is a charm about the plot but I did not find it as magical as I had hoped. Furthermore, I started to get a little bored by Mrs B’s story about Becky, failing to appreciate the significance of this narrative.

This is a story that offers something quite different. It is about a very quiet woman who seems to be on the outskirts of society, but has more power than she realises. I enjoyed reading her monologue of the dog she walks and appreciated seeing Janice’s lioness emerging as she finds her voice. For instance, I’m not sure I could have tolerated Janice’s husband as much as she had! The story has a story within the story too as one of Janice’s eccentric clients tells her the true story of Becky the lover of Edward VIII who got away with murder. Intertwined in all these tales is the journey takes from sad unfulfilled cleaning lady to a more empowered person who makes decisions and in the process heals herself from old emotional wounds. I was slightly disappointed in the ease of boy meets girl, or man meets woman, and live happily ever after. Such a predictable but highly unusual story. How lucky for Janice that after her poor choice of husband she managed to find an extremely sensitive and emotionally mature new man. But its only a story after all and dont we all love a fairytale? The writing flowed well and there were moments of wisdom such as when the bus driver found his way in to open a young man's broken heart.

There was humour and interesting snippets of information. I liked the chapter headings and there were stories and characters which I would like to know more about. Were there perhaps slightly too many stories? Perhaps, and maybe with fewer of them we could have gone deeper with some. But, I still enjoyed it.


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