The Lost Properties of Love by Sophie Ratcliffe – Book Review

Title: The Lost Properties of Love

Author: Sophie Ratcliffe

Genre/Themes: Memoir, Experimental Writing Style akin to Autofiction

Blurb from Goodreads

What if you could tell the truth about who you are, without risking losing the one you love? This is a book 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 a book about the things we hide from other people. Love affairs, grief, domestic strife and the mess at the bottom of your handbag. Part memoir, part imagined history, in The Lost Properties of Love, Sophie Ratcliffe combines her own experience of childhood bereavement, a past lover, the reality about motherhood and marriage, with undiscovered stories about Tolstoy and trains, handbags and honeymoons to muse 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. Readers will find themselves propelled into Anna Karenina’s world of steam, commuting down the Northern Line, and checking out a New York El-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 twenty-first century. Frank and painfully funny, this contemporary take on Brief Encounter – told to a backing track of classic 80s songs- is a compelling look at the workings of the human heart.

My Review

This is a sumptuously written book.

The writing is simply breathtaking.

Sophie Ratcliffe has opened her whole self up and poured her inner most thoughts into this unique memoir. She speaks of loves lost and found, of journeys taken and not and of joys and sorrows. And everything is so searingly honest.

There is a mesmerising rawness to this book.

“Perhaps all of us hide our lives in fictions. Many books are love letters. Perhaps this one is too. For the more you look into any book, the more secrets it contains. They open up before us, like a series of Russian nesting dolls in reverse, taking us into ever larger worlds.”

She writes of a love affair her younger self had with a married man and juxtaposes it against her own now married life.

“Standing at one end of the church, I knew that my heart had my husband-to-be in it. It was, as hearts go, full. But it wasn’t necessarily just full of him. It also had you in it. And the barman. And that man who used to sell antiques at the corner of the road. And my old art teacher. And the man who ran the bookshop. And the one I dated but couldn’t commit to. And all the heroes and heroines I’d read about in storybooks. I kept this from him as I walked down the aisle. It was my secret. All these other loves, or nearly loves, are built up in the layers of my heart. Romantic cholesterol. But even a congested heart still beats.”

And she speaks of the change that early loss of a parent has on a life and how she names it Loss, carries that Loss, uses that Loss, lets herself be defined by that Loss.

“The true sadness of grief is mixed up with feelings that you are never sad enough. That you are doing it wrongly, or selfishly, or theatrically. And it’s far beneath any arrangements of words on a page. It feels as if someone is scraping a grapefruit spoon on the inside of your stomach.”

She questions endings and beginnings and blurs the line between the two. And uses the story of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Kate Field, the suspected muse of Anthony Trollope, to both enhance her own stories of love and loss and also to nearly blur the line between truth and fiction…

It’s hard to describe but truly is a fascinating storytelling device.

This is a book to sit quietly with.

A book that encourages silent reflection and a book that many will see parts of their own soul within its pages.

“We do not, I think, get lost in books, so much as catch and lose and tangle their details in the narratives of our own lives.”


An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins UK: William Collins, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All quotations used in this review were checked against the final published hardback.

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