Author: Kelly Doust
Kelly Doust has penned five non-fiction books about craft and fashion, Precious Things is her first venture into fiction and her love of fashion certainly still shines through.
I found it a little difficult to immerse myself in the story to begin with because there are a few different timelines and main characters through the story, I think my issue was trying to piece together the whys and the hows a little too soon.
In 2015, Maggie is living in London and working in an auction house. Life is getting hectic and there have been talks at home about her pulling back a little at work because she is needed more with the family. Husband Tim is in the middle of a huge project that keeps him out of the house a lot, they have a young daughter who is getting clingier rather than more independent and Tim’s teenaged daughter recently arrived on their doorstep to live with them. To set a spanner in the works Maggie is called in for a meeting with the boss and offered the position of head auctioneer, a position that she would really love but has come with terrible timing. Instead of pulling back at work it will mean more evening and weekend work, but it’s an opportunity she just can’t let pass her by.
The main character running through the entire narrative is an ornate beaded piece of material that has had many uses and been called many things. It began as a beaded collar attached to a wedding dress, it went on to become a headband, coronet and choker. Each string of the story hinges on the coronet and the women it belonged to.
Maggie comes into possession of the coronet in a bulk lot of fabrics purchased at auction, ridiculously cheap. At the time it was scrunched in a ball at the bottom of the box and looking a little worse for wear, after a gentle hand wash it regains some of it’s former glory. In a TV segment highlighting Bonninghams and the work they do Maggie shows off the coronet and it comes to the attention of Francesca who vividly remembers owning it once, and is certain it is a tie to the biological parents she knows nothing about. Together Maggie and Francesca embark on a quest to trace the coronet back through time and discover it’s history.
The main narrative follows Maggie; her life, her trials and her quest for answers about the coronet. In between Maggie’s chapters there are chapters introducing us, and letting us get to know, the other women who have owned the coronet in the decades since it was made by Aimee in Normandy, 1891.
Each of the women have found themselves in trouble around the time they were in possession of the piece, and the piece is portrayed as bad luck with none of the previous owners wanting it back in their possession. The question that is raised as we get further and further into the story sees us begin to wonder if the coronet is bad luck or if it is the owners always wanting more, and the lengths they will go to get it.
One thing I took away from this read is that it really isn’t things that are precious, it’s the people and the memories associated with the things that are precious and what we really need to do is take a step back and be more grateful for the people around us and what we do have rather than the things that we want. Always wanting more is a dangerous trap to fall into because when is it enough, when do you finally get to the point that you don’t want more…. experience, and this book, tells us that it’s usually just after you’ve lost what you already had.
The coronet is a mystery unto itself and I was wondering what bad vibes had been sewn into it when it was first created for much of the story. There are some very dark times around the coronet, there are some questionable decisions and behaviours that really made me lose sympathy for the characters. At the time it had me wondering if it was an influence of the coronet, or was it just coincidence. I think it depends on where you place power.
Maggie and her family go through quite a lot of changes throughout the story and they certainly come out a much more cohesive unit. Through great trials and struggles there is always the opportunity to achieve great triumph, if you manage to change your perspective and nurture what you have.
Doust has written an intriguing and mysterious narrative that did capture me, though it took a little time, and looks at the history behind items that we find when we shop secondhand. Her love of fashion shines brightly from the pages and she will definitely be an author to watch if she continues writing fiction.
Precious Things is book #16 for the Australian Women’s Writers Challenge 2016