Book Review: The Gallery of Lost Species by Nina Berkhout

The Gallery of Lost Species
Author: Nina Berkhout
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Released: May 31, 2016
Review Source: Thomas Dunne Books

Edith grows up in her big sister Vivienne's shadow. While the beautiful Viv is forced by the girls' overbearing mother to compete in child beauty pageants, plain-looking Edith follows in her father's footsteps: collecting oddities, studying coins, and reading from old books.

When Viv rebels against her mother's expectations, Edith finds herself torn between a desire to help her sister and pursuing her own love for a boy who might love her sister more than he loves her. When Edith accepts a job at the National Gallery of Canada, she meets an elderly cryptozoologist named Theo who is searching for a bird many believe to be extinct. Navigating her way through Vivienne's dark landscape while trying to win Liam's heart, Edith develops an unlikely friendship with Theo when she realizes they might have more in common than she imagined; they are both trying to retrieve something that may be impossible to bring back to life.

The Gallery of Lost Species is about finding solace in unexpected places - in works of art, in people, and in animals that the world has forgotten.

Let me start by saying that I unfortunately did not finish this book. In fact I think I got less than a hundred pages in before I had to quit. That isn’t to say that this was a bad book, because I enjoyed the small bit that I read but not enough to continue reading until the end, which sucks because I was looking forward to liking and reading it.

This book is about a girl who grows up in her older sister’s shadow, often times overlooked and unnoticed by all, including her mom. It says on Goodreads that the book is about “finding solace in unexpected places – in works of art, in people, and in animals that the world has forgotten,” and that was part of what drew me in. I think not liking this story had nothing to do with the writing itself, which was quite good, but with the slow pace. After a few false starts, I finally was able to focus enough on the story to read more than the first few pages, but again, the slow pace and building up to the main plot of the story did not keep my attention for very long. I’d like to think that I’m not a picky reader and I’m kind of easy to please; more often than not I give books four and five stars, sometimes three’s, rarely if ever, one’s and two’s. For the amount that I read, I give the story a solid 3.5 stars.

It was interesting to see the dynamic of this family and how they each got along with one another as well as a whole. The relationship that the main protagonist, Edith, has with her father made me think of the relationship that I have with mine and that was one of the things I liked the most. Constance, the mother of Edit and her older sister Vivienne, was so… not enjoyable, a very disagreeable mother and character. The chapters I read were mainly about their life growing up, what it was like for Edith to live in that shadow her sister cast, and the fallout and change in the family when Vivienne decided to go to war with their mother. I think that in time, I’ll give The Gallery of Lost Species another go, but for now it is what it is.

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