THE MUSEUM OF YOU: A BOOK REVIEW

museum

‘When you grow up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story, you’re forever skating on the thin ice of their memories.’

Grief. It’s all pervasive and its repercussions are felt throughout the generations, even to those newly born as tragedy strikes.

This is only too true for Clover, almost twelve, who has lived under the cloud of her mother’s death when she was only six weeks old. A ‘surprise’ to both her parents, her well-meaning father, Darren, has tried to protect his daughter from any further unhappiness.

His reluctance to talk about his wife, Becky, is clear to sharp-minded Clover as she sees her father’s deep sorrow and fear when she raises the topic with him and he replies with the oft repeated sound-bites, sharing only minimal information about her mother.

On the cusp of teenage years, Clover becomes desperate to break through the palpable dark shadow of her life and learn more about her elusive mother. However ‘she has recently become attuned to the way Dad takes the temperature of her mood and attempts to chart it. He’ll stop once she smiles – a small smile isn’t enough, it takes all her teeth to convince, and even then he sometimes inspects her expression like a worried dentist.’ In her attempt to get to know her mother Clover recreates Becky’s life from her belongings, which have long since been stored with other junk in the seldom entered second bedroom.

‘This was her mother’s room. This was her mother’s view. These are her mother’s shoes. She teeters over to the crowded space at the end of the bed, back and forth she treads, back and forth and back and forth as if eventually, she might step into her mother’s life.’

As the poignant and moving story unfolds, the reader gradually learns the reasons for Darren’s reticence and the patchwork of sorrow and guilt permeates the book.

The novel is written through two narrative strands, that of Clover and Darren. Both are in the close third person perspective and the author’s deftness and skill ensure that each voice is distinctive and it is easy to relate to each character. The sense of immediacy is achieved by the use of present tense for current day events which slides into the past tense for the story of Darren and Becky’s earlier life.

Clover’s courage, keen observation and emotional intelligence is strongly portrayed throughout the novel, not only through her relationship with her father but also with her kindly, loud and older neighbour Mrs Mackerel who has often helped care for her. As Clover experiences the first independent summer holiday she is inspired by the school visit to Merseyside Maritime Museum exhibition about the Titanic to create her own museum about her mother, with a special exhibition in the second bedroom entitled ‘Becky Brookfield – The Untold Story’. The descriptions of the various items recovered from the boxes and suitcases in the second bedroom punctuate the two viewpoints of the story, with each exhibit clearly named, logged and its history guessed at (often wrongly).

Darren is a brilliantly crafted character, flawed, slightly rough. He’s an academic at heart whose passionate interest and intent to study geography at university was cut short by his own mother’s illness and death in his teens. As Darren’s father effectively withdrew from life, silence filled the gap of his mother’s former presence. After losing Becky, Darren once again experiences intense grief as he is ‘poleaxed by the old ache of missing her (Becky)’.

The themes of love and relationship between parents and children is explored throughout the book, including that of Becky and her damaged younger brother, Jim, who grew up in a traumatic household. Despite her Uncle Jim’s chaotic life, Clover accepts him with the same unreserved love as her mother had. Meanwhile, further characters become as family and these include Colin, the odd but stalwart friend from school who is a constant presence in Darren’s life. There is also the outsider Dagmar who becomes an unexpected friend to Clover and finally her father’s female friend, Kelly and her two young sons. Ultimately they all become closely linked, caring for each and showing that ordinary people are extraordinary.

Locations feature heavily in the book, particularly as Darren has never left the area he grew up in. As a bus driver he drives back and forth between Liverpool and Manchester, recalling the street names, homes, allotment, sights and sounds and these quickly become familiar to the reader as the events of his past unravels in a veritable stream of consciousness.

‘The Museum of You’ is written with a unique form of whimsical realism, the grittiness of life interlaced with the magical recreation of Becky’s life in the form a one room museum. In places the novel can seem to be meandering and some might consider the pace too slow. Personally I was captivated by the unfurling of the story, the shifting perspectives, the varying tenses, the excellent dialogue and museum details providing an engrossing, thought-provoking, memorable read. At no stage did the book become mawkish or morbid, rather it’s a seductive tale, tenderly told and overall enchanting with a perfect feel-good factor for the summer holidays!

netgalleyI received a free copy of this book from the NetGalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

Rating:                          4 out of 5 stars.

Publisher:                    Random House UK

Available from          Amazon UK   or   Amazon US

Note:

The next few weeks I’ll be on holiday, relaxing in the wonderfully peaceful retreat in the forest, visiting family, friends, connecting with nature, swimming in the lakes and sea. Oh, not to mention, trying to make a dent in my burgeoning reading list – I’m so behind on reviews and feel mortified! Hopefully there will be lots of new ones for you to read in the Autumn. I’ll be popping in only a little on WP (when the weak signal allows) although my blog will be not dormant.

For the first time since I started blogging, I’m honoured to have written guest posts for two fellow bloggers this summer so I hope to see you there (I’ll be reblogging!). Furthermore, I’ll be posting three picture / inspiring quote posts during the next few weeks. 

I am looking at this photo again and can smell the heather, the rocks and the sea. I am sure I can hear the seagulls too.😊 Beckoning me…so off I go and to do something useful…….whatever that is! Meanwhile, I wish you all a lovely summer, may it be full of laughter, smiles and joy – the sun shining neither too hot or too little! 

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82 thoughts on “THE MUSEUM OF YOU: A BOOK REVIEW

    • Annika Perry says:

      Robin, I’m not surprised you’re wondering where I’ve been! I came back two weeks ago but since had a guest post out and still in the midst of holiday mode as my son was home – constant back and froing to friends/outings/shoppings etc. Also it took a while to settle back which I hadn’t expected. I do hope you get a chance to read this, Robin and do stick through the beginning chapters if it seems a bit slow and confusing. hugs xx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Ahh…thank you so much! 😀 I’m so glad you enjoyed the review and as you can tell, I definitely think the book is an excellent read. Enjoy and I would love to know what you thought of it.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great review Annika and another book to go on my reading list.In fact the majority of the books you review seem to end up there. Keep up the good work. Have a great break and I’m looking forward to your next post whenever that will be.
    Mike

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you, Mike and I hope you have a chance to read this – do let me know what you think of it! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the reviews…the break is a great opportunity to catch up on my reading and reviewing. The next one will be a thriller! Wishing you a lovely summer holiday. 😀❤️

  2. Curt Mekemson says:

    I immediately thought of my memorabilia box, Annika. Ever few years I come across it and make a journey back in time. We are ever so much who we have been and what we have experienced, even the forgotten parts, maybe even mores the forgotten parts. Great review. And enjoy your escape to your beautiful haven. –Curt

    • Annika Perry says:

      Curt, I’m so touched by the thought of your memorabilia box and I understand it must be very precious to you, providing a journey back in time. Is it very big? So many of my past things are up in the loft so I never come across them…no doubt will one day when sorting out or moving. Thank you so much for your profound and insightful comment..it had me reflecting and yes’ I think you’re right…we’re even more the forgotten parts! I’m having a beautiful break, thank you, albeit slightly exhausted with a group of my son’s friends over for a while! I’m used to having only the one teenager around! This morning we realised that their energy is matched by our hard work to make life easy!! 😀😀 Hugs to you and Peggy. Xx

      • Curt Mekemson says:

        It really isn’t that big, Annika. But I have another box where I save letters and journals. Do you remember when people used to write letters. 🙂 I suspect lots of teenagers are a handful! I’d put them in charge of cooking and cleaning. (grin) –Curt

        • Annika Perry says:

          Ohh…that’s where we’re gong wrong! 😀😀 We’ve been doing the grunt work, but it’s been great to see them having such a fantastic time and don’t think they’ve stopped laughing. They all flew home yesterday so recuperating as normal tranquility and peace is restored!! 😀 Hope you’re having a lovely summer.

          I still think letters are one of the best and most intimate forms of communication and have boxes of them…precious memories…then I think of all the I wrote too. Sadly becoming a lost skill.

          • Curt Mekemson says:

            Glad the friends had a blast. It’s probably an experience they will remember for the rest of our lives. And I truly agree on letters. Maybe our blogs help make up the difference. –Curt

  3. Andrea Stephenson says:

    Great review Annika, you describe very well the way the book is written and the dilemmas and motivations of the characters. It sounds like an enchanting book. I hope you enjoy your retreat and manage to do lots of reading, lots of relaxing and lots of recharging 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Andrea, despite only being here a few days I can happily tick your last points – done lots of reading already, including the writing magazines that have lain unread at home, relaxed so much I almost feel wonderfully catatonic at times, then full of new energy! Bliss! 😀😀 Enchanting is definitely the word to describe The Museum of You..but never too much and still firmly rooted in the real world. Warmest wishes & hugs xx❤️️

  4. Christy B says:

    Hi Annika! Oh the book sounds like it creates such memorable characters. I cannot imagine losing my mom when I was only 6 weeks old. I hope you have a lovely holiday and you’re not the only one who’s very behind in their reading list (points finger at self). We’ll get there.. sometimes life gets in the way of reading!! Hugs ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Haha! How does life dare get in the way of reading?! 😀😀 Glad I’m not the only with a huge reading list..on the up side, this is much better than having no books to read! Christy, this book is wonderful and the characters so memorable they are still with me…sometimes you just don’t want to to leave your new fictional ‘friends’ – what skill in writing such creations! The holiday is wonderful…only a few days into it but already so refreshed and energised! Happy Reading and wishing you a lovely summer. ❤️

    • ShadowThePRcat says:

      I’ve always wondered how men handle this — losing women they love, while birthing a child. I wonder if the loss of their wife makes it a little difficult to love the child. Annika, does the book explore this concept much?

      • Annika Perry says:

        I think this may well be the case sometimes, that men ‘blame’ the newborn child and find it difficult to love them unconditionally afterwards. This book is different as first of all the mother doesn’t die in childbirth and secondly the father feels more a guilt and shame at what he perceives his failing and responsibility towards the mother’s death – this guilt haunts him and makes him both remote and hyper-alert to the child’s happiness.

        A joy to discuss the book with you. 😀

        • ShadowThePRcat says:

          I would love to talk to someone who’s been in that situation, who would be honest about it. That’s a tough thing to admit to a stranger. I’ve talked to one of the kids before. He said, “My mom died giving birth to me. I guess I killed her.” Real matter of fact, like he’d been told that before and just accepted it now.

          And thanks for clarifying. I do remember now that you said she died when the baby was a few weeks old. My imagination got the better of me 😂

          Thanks again.

  5. K E Garland says:

    The book’s quote is poignant and your review sounds as if the book is indeed interesting. I do hope you’ll have a great holiday away from blogging and I’ll be looking forward to your return 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      It is definitely interesting, in a quiet way…a beautiful tale of various personalities trying to make the best in a difficult world, navigating through grief and loss. Oh yes, a few days into the holiday and already having a wonderful time…every day special, in just being here, stopping and feeling the minutes and hours. Bliss! Wishing you a lovely summer, Kathy and hope you get to have a break away! 😀❤️

  6. Sharon Bonin-Pratt says:

    What a wonderful book this must be, your review intriguing. I’m always interested in mother-daughter relationships and this book seems to feature that, even if it’s only in Clover’s imagination.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Sharon. It’s interesting you mention their relationship as I was reading an article about the important role an ‘absent’ character can play in fiction writing, but how tricky it can be to portray the absent person well – this book does it brilliantly. Becky becomes so real and by the end we feel we have an intimate knowledge of her, Clover finds closure in her new-found knowledge and closeness…

  7. dgkaye says:

    A succinct and wonderful review Annika. I’ll definitely be adding this book to my reading list. I wish you a lovely vacation and do enjoy your blogging break. 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Debby, brilliant that you enjoyed this book review and I would love to hear your feelings on the The Museum of You when you get round to reading it – a worthy one to be on a reading list! Wishing you a lovely summer. 😀😀Are you taking a break away? I know you had two fantastic trips earlier in the year!

      • dgkaye says:

        Thanks Annika. I do have a few ‘must reads’ before I get there, but I will let you know when I’ve read. And no, no trips planned so far for the balance of the year. I’m spending the summer working on my newest book. Seems to be a pattern with me, lol 🙂 Enjoy your holidays. 🙂 x

  8. Sheila says:

    Great review! It sounds a little like Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller and I loved that one so I’ll have to add this to my list. I hope you have a wonderful vacation! As long as ocean scenes like that are involved, I’m guessing you will. 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Sheila, I haven’t read Swimming Lessons but this is one I must look at now and think I’ve enjoyed one or two Claire Fuller books before! I love sharing book thoughts…Oh, the ocean is not far at all and even had a quick visit to the coast on our first day here, albeit for a wine shop and ice cream! 😀😀

  9. Jacqui Murray says:

    This sounds like a delightful book. What a burden to carry–for both of them. I’m adding this to my TBR list. Goodreads tells me I’m behind on my yearly goal of how many books I plan to read so I’m trying to catch up. Sigh.

    Have a wonderful vacation. I expect a full recounting so I can live it through your eyes.

    • Annika Perry says:

      No pressure then!! I better keep a travelogue! I’m so happy to bring a taste of the holiday to you – hopefully I can capture the peace and joy! My son is having a few friends over for a while, so I expect to be extra busy.

      Jacqui, this is a terrific book…and I’m realising how much now I’m reading another one which is okay but I still miss Clover and her Dad! Ha! I lowered my Goodreads challenge in January so I’m just keeping up. More worrying is Netgalley – they seem very patient but I keep expecting to get emails chasing me up!

  10. the incurable dreamer says:

    This book totally sounds like a must-read. I so appreciate your reviews, thank you, thank you.

    And good for you, Annika!! The coming weeks sound like they are going to be absolutely heavenly. Many blessing to you and your family – I hope you all have a wonderful time together. Hopefully the sun shines brightly and you enjoy every single moment. ❤️

    • Annika Perry says:

      Tanya, thank you so much for reading and for your wonderful comment! 😀 Warmest thanks also for your lovely good wishes and blessings…I am sure we will have fantastic peaceful few weeks…even when it rains we feel joy, the dramatic weather is like watching a film as it sweeps over us, then luckily mostly sunny days, living outside from morning to bedtime! Heavenly! Wishing you a lovely happy summer, Tanya. ❤️ PS. Oh, the book is a delight and I hope you get a chance to read!

  11. Julie Holmes, author says:

    Great review, Annika! My TBR list has gotten quite unruly as well, but I’ll have to wait until winter (or at least until the garden is finished for the season) before I take a go at it.

    Enjoy your vacation! And thank you for the lovely picture (you know I love those nature pics 🙂 )

    • Annika Perry says:

      Ahh…glad you like the last photo…it just seemed to sneak in! 😀 Julie, I had to smile at your unruly TBR list…I imagine those misbehaving books, getting into trouble! Winter sounds like a good idea to tackle them and good luck with your garden this summer – hopefully, the pesky animals won’t get in again! I look forward to your gardening reports – you know how I look forward to those photos – and of your cats!😀

  12. Marje @ Kyrosmagica says:

    I love the cover, wow! Your review is so intriguing – must treat myself to a copy! Like you I am so behind on my reviews…. Sigh. Happy holiday Annika, enjoy the forest and your books. 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Interesting you mention the cover, Marje as I always loved this one, very striking and original and a gorgeous blue. However, in the U.K. There is now a new white background cover with two smaller blue pictures in opposite corners – I felt it looked bland and boring in comparison so kept with this version! Yikes, so many books to reviews and I haven’t even started on the ones I want to do for books I’ve learnt about here on WP!! At times I’m thinking of starting a separate book blog! Wishing you a lovely summer, Marje and hope you have a chance to catch up on reading! 😀😀

  13. JC says:

    Annika, I love your review. This hits close to home as my father died when I was 6 yrs old. And through that event, my mother’s grief and not being able to talk about it although it showed like a sore thumb. Like Clover, it had a lasting effect on me. It is within the last ten years that she has opened up and talked about my father. This is one book I will have to read.

  14. balroop2013 says:

    This review is inspiring enough to read ‘The Museum Of You.’ Thanks for the in-depth analysis of the book for us Annika.
    Have a wonderful holiday, I would look forward to the stories that fill your thoughts as you relax in the lap of nature, a natural mood uplifter, all embracing and enchanting. 🙂 A big hug.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Ahh…many thanks for your fantastic comment, Balroop!

      This is a wonderful book and for people seeking books in this genre one I can highly recommend. As always it’s a fine line of not telling too much of the story and not being able to review properly.

      Oh yes, I’ll be in the lap of Mother Nature – the ozone is delicious, the views glorious, the breeze gently and the ocean refreshing! I wish you a lovely summer too and hope you have chance to have a wonderful peaceful vacation. big hug back to you xx😀❤️

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you, Diana…this is a special and original book, so glad you like the review! I’m n the midst of packing and sorting before I go…I’m imagining myself there! Wishing you a lovely peaceful summer too! 😀❤️

  15. delphini510 says:

    Brilliant review Annika, I have now bought the book on your recommendation and it is downloaded on my Kindle to be enjoyed on holiday.
    I love the title of the book, so evocative. I can’t wait to find out what really happened and am so taken with the room that became the museum of Clover’s mother.

    Have a stupendous holiday among the shores and trees.
    Miriam

    • Annika Perry says:

      Miriam, I am so sorry!!😢 I seem to have missed replying to your lovely comment as I was preparing for the getaway. I’m so glad you were taken with the review and wonder if you’ve had a chance to read the book yet? What is your opinion about it?

      Oh yes, I’m having a truly wonderful relaxing holiday…alas not many days left!

      • delphini510 says:

        Hi Annika, nice to see you surface and do not feel sorry. Those breaks are necessary for body and mind. I am on a wonderful break myself and not being very mindful about the dear blogging friends.
        Now, the book was another perfect recommendation from you. Apart from a slowish start I was totally engrossed. The story is wonderful and characters very strong and varied. You can’t but love them all. Ah…the mystery, well for this you have to read the book.😊 .
        miriam

    • Annika Perry says:

      Relationships are at the core of this book and by the end they felt like family to me…one of those books you don’t want to stop and just want to know what happens to them all next! Have a lovely summer! 😀

  16. Jill Weatherholt says:

    Thanks for the terrific review, Annika! Oh gosh, your trip sounds wonderful. I know you’ll have a fabulous time reading, relaxing and taking photos. We’ll be waiting for your return…enjoy! ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Many thanks for your wonderful comment, Jill! ❤️ I’m so glad you liked the review. The trip will be fantastic…it’s just getting everything sorted for the long time away (not that I’m complaining!). Yikes, photos…better add camera to my list! Thanks for the unintentional reminder! 😀 Wishing you a lovely summer and hope you have time to relax and enjoy just being. xx

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