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…
When Janice starts cleaning for Mrs B – a shrewd and tricksy woman in her nineties – she 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?
My reading experience:
This is an unexpectedly compelling story about a cleaner called Janice. This could be about the interesting stories she collects, but if all of these, hers is the most poignant. Here is a woman who loathes herself and underestimates her impact on others. Here is a woman who doubts her every move, who hides from being the star of her own life with other people’s stories. Here is a woman in search of love – friend love, platonic love, companionship love, unconditional pet love, passionate love, self love. Yet, she is not a pitiful character. She is wholly likeable. Janice unbeknownst to her, is actually quite enigmatic and draws people to her. Why? Because she actually gives a shit about them.
This book is also a story of societal behaviours, of prejudices and an antiquated class system. As a domestic cleaner Janice is treated differently by her clients which is a window into the stratification of our society. She is a friend, an ally, a maid, an employee, and most horribly by her husband who calls her ‘just a cleaner’. Just recently I feel that the value of cleaners and cleaning shot to the forefront as the most important part of societal infrastructure due to a global pandemic. Certainly they are skilled and important. Most recently, life savers.
I befriended Janice instantly, looked forward to joining her world for the evening and then found it hard to leave her. I highly recommend this book by Sally Page and look forward to her next one.