Preloved by Lauren Bravo

Released 27th April 2023 | Hardcover | £14.99 @laurenbravo #Preloved


Gwen is in her thirty-eight years old, newly unemployed and trying to work out what to do with her life. She decides to volunteer in her local charity shop, where she meets a lot of interesting people and encounters many interesting items. The characters are beautifully described, especially Suze, Gwen’s childhood best friend. I really liked Gwen and could understand her confidence issues.

In-between the main story, we have little vignettes telling the back stories of some of the items brought into the charity shops. These are beautifully written and often thought-provoking. I thought the Scrabble one was particularly poignant. These are often linked to the main story, so note the characters’ names.

The writing style is clever, observant and witty. I’m sure Lauren Bravo knows my mother, because she’s uncannily similar to Gwen’s mum Marjorie! Her character descriptions are astute and sensitive and each one comes to life from her words.

I also love charity shops and the novel very cleverly shows how multi layered they are – there’s the back story of the item and its owner, there’s what it means to the charity shop workers (how high they price it, where they put it, etc.) and then it’s new life when another owner buys it. Plus the whole theme of recycling! The proof copy of the book I received was fully recyclable, though I have no plans to do that at all, I shall pass it to my family members to read and enjoy.

The story covers lots of topics like loss, bereavement, family relationships, romantic relationships (or lack of) and finding your way in life. So many themes are interwoven in this novel, there is plenty to think about on the pages and it is a story that will stay with you after reading the book.


Gwen’s life has stalled. She’s in her mid-thirties, perpetually single, her friends are busy procreating in the country and conversations with her parents seem to revolve entirely around herbaceous borders and the council’s wheelie-bin timetable. Above all she’s lonely. But then, isn’t everyone?

When Gwen’s made redundant from a job she drifted into a decade ago and never left, she realises it’s time to make a change. Over what might be the best – and most solitary – meal she’s ever eaten, Gwen vows to find something meaningful to do with her life, reconnect with her family and friends – and finally book herself a dentist appointment. Her search for meaning soon leads her to volunteer in a local charity shop where she both literally and metaphorically unloads her emotional baggage.

With the help of the weird and wonderful people she meets in the shop and the donated items bursting with untold stories that pass through its doors, Gwen must finally address the events and choices that led her to this point and find a way to move forward with bravery, humanity and more regular dental care.

Brimming with life, love and the stories bound up in even the most everyday items, Preloved is a tale about friendship, loss, being true to oneself no matter the expectations – and the enduring power and joy of charity shops.


Lauren Bravo is a freelance journalist who writes about fashion, popular culture, food, travel and feminism, for publications including Grazia, Refinery29 UK, Cosmopolitan, Stylist, easyJet Traveller, Time Out, Delicious, the Telegraph and the Guardian.

She is the author of two non-fiction books, What Would the Spice Girls Do? (2018) and How To Break Up With Fast Fashion (2020).

Lauren lives in East London, and Preloved is her debut novel.

Find out more on her website

Published by karenlouisehollis

53, lives in Lincoln, England. Published writer, book blogger and reviewer, mum, grandma, cat owner, vegetarian. Loves reading and sewing. My second novel is out now - a second chance romance set at the seaside - STARTING AGAIN IN SILVER SANDS BAY.

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