The Button Collector: Elizabeth Jennings

Afternoon my lovely readers, I hope you enjoyed the new logo and post yesterday thank you for all your lovely answers I’m still going through them and replying! Today’s book is a real treasure, and a book where I found almost no faults. I don’t tend to pick up books that revolve around the genre of ‘family’ because they are normally dispersed with fantasy, romance or crime, rather than being a genre in itself. Here it takes centre stage and it lead to a very cosy, thought provoking and humbling read. I hope you enjoy!

I have always had a fascination with buttons, and when Elizabeth emailed me asking if I would like to read her novel, I immediately thought this book would be for me.  The book starts with us meeting Caroline, who is visiting a flea market and upon finding herself at a stall selling jars of twinkling buttons in all different shapes and sizes is fascinated by their beauty. When the stall holder asks if she would like to purchase a jar for her home, Caroline realises that she has one of her own, stored away at home hidden behind remnants of her past life. Finding the buttons playing on her mind, and unable to sleep,  we spend the night with Caroline, who takes the jar from its hiding place and spills the buttons over the table; as the buttons fall and bounce on the hard surface all sorts of memories come to light. Each chapter begins with a description of the button, its shape, size, colour, a lovely illustration and the memory that said button has conjured up in the mind of our main character. Each recollection is the starting point to a vividly described event or occurrence in the deeply entwined and complicated family that Caroline is a part of. With events spanning from 1935-1996, we are tumbled into a family history so thorny I’m still struggling to dislodge myself from its mesmorising memories.

I loved this book from the very beginning, for a start the characters are warm and deeply described. Caroline is a difficult character to read at first as she comes off as a little cold and difficult to read but we learn that family relationships have created this tension. The supporting characters are also built up with strong character profiles; Gail is conscientious with a strong moral compass but there is a desire to break from this mould creating an unbalanced but riveting character, Emma is loyal and motherly, but strained and confused about her daughter Caroline creating tension between the three as a unit. This allowed for a number of sub-plots and relationship quandaries which gave the storyline depth and although each of the stories is only a snippet into the lives of the characters rather than a continuous storyline I really felt like I knew the characters which was simply wonderful. I also really enjoyed reading about the struggle to belong that occurs between Caroline and Gail, they both have their insecurities and it creates a powerful message throughout.

At times when reading it is not always apparent what the stories are moving towards however they all contribute towards an ending. The strings may not be perfectly sewn up and there is room for the reader to imagine and create their own ending but the author leads us to an finale which is really nice. Sometimes when I finish a book I wish the author had tailored things off a little neater but here it is just perfect. In terms of the writing style the descriptions are warm and cosy. The writing style is homely and inviting and reading this snug in my cardigan I got a sense of calm and utter happiness. The descriptions are gentle but perfectly formed; ‘I tip the jar past horizontal, watch the buttons pour out like stolen jewels. They bounce in the light as they hit the surface. They make a pattering sound. Circles of colour dancing and spinning and calling my name.’ How delightful!

I must admit as soon as I finished this I got myself on Ebay and sought out a beautiful glass and my first button for my jar. It has made me look at buttons in a completely new light especially after reading this very special quote “A button is a little thing, but it is a thing of use. Something to connect, to hold things together. Not perfectly – not strong and fast like a metal zipper – but holding them together still.” I loved this book from start to finish and was incredibly said when it finished. I cannot wait to read it again; the progression is gentle but captured the story perfectly and took me on a wonderful adventure. Definitely worth a read; hopefully one day I will have a jar that will create beautiful memories for me as well.


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