Vallerosa, for the country is called Vallerosa although it is likely you have never heard of it, is a tiny landlocked nation, peering slightly nervously out towards unnamed neighbour and the world beyond. everything and everyone has his proper place in society just as it has been for generations. Led by a lonely, depressed and possibly dyslexic President, the ruling council has been persuaded by an opportunist American advisor to turn the whole country over to the production of its tea crop. The reality that this strategy doesn’t leave any land left for food crops, or that they haven’t actually got any export orders or that there is only one goods train that calls only periodically, is slowly beginning to sink in. But what to do?
So when the President gets a letter announcing an official visit to Vallerosa by the Duke of Edinburgh he recognises it as an occasion that will put his country on the map and quieten any discontent (if there is any, and he’s sure there is). Only the Duke isn’t a he, it’s a she, and she isn’t really royalty. But like a beautiful cool breeze on a hot summer day she soothes and charms, disarms and subtly leads. Soon, the outsider has become privy to all the country’s secrets and private worries. She is embraced by the community and subtly channels to the surface all the harmony, selflessness and cooperation that has been operating subversively. Even the clock is town fixed.
The Museum of Things Left Behind is a charming modern fable, told with wit and subtle pathos. It is about the wisdom of women; the lurking danger of economists; the need for education, up to a point, and the importance of tea. And honey. I’m always wary of anything labelled “heartwarming” (the description on one of the publisher’s sites). At best the word should be reserved for pictures of tubby-tummies puppies and kittens sleeping in the arms of loving gorillas. But you’d have to have a hard heart not to enjoy this brief visit to Vallerosa. And it should be compulsory reading for political consultants.
The Museum of Things Left Behind is the first novel by Seni Glaister and has just been published by HarperCollins.