The Fiction Fox
Review: The Museum of You - Carys Bray
Gerne: Literary Fiction
Published: Hutchinson, June 2016
Rating: 5/5 stars, all-time favourite
"When you grow up in the saddest chapter of someone else's life, you're forever skating on the thin ice of their memories."
By far my favourite read of this month (and probably the year for that matter) was The Museum of You by Carys Bray: one of those hidden gems of which I had never heard before Jen Campbell mentioned it in one of her videos. Not for the first time, one of her recommendations has become a strong candidate to be one of my all-time favourite novels.
As someone who lost their mother at a young age, this novel hit me with an extra gut punch in terms of relatability. We follow Clover Quinn, a 12-year old girl with a fascination for museums and a deep desire to know her mother, who passed away when she was very young. Her father took his wife’s death hard, and has locked his grief away (literally) by keeping all his wife’s possessions in a dedicated room and sealing the door. Unable to talk to her dad about her mother, Clover takes to the locked room to find her own answers about her mom’s life. Piecing together the bits, Clover curates her own museum of a women she wish she’d got to know. This novel is very near to perfection in my opinion. When growing towards adulthood almost all of us go through a phase of subconsciously studying or even mirroring our same-sex parent. When that parent’s deceased, or no longer in your life, that leaves a hole that screams to be filled. Carys Bray portrayed that feeling perfectly. I related to Clover in almost every way: her search for answers, the almost idealised picture she creates, the way she treats these meaningless items as museum pieces, for no other reason than that her mum once handled them… I also loved the relationship between Clover and her father, especially how nuanced it was. Objectively, Darren probably isn’t the best father out there, and as Clover grows older she starts to see some of that. She also sees that he tries everything in his power to do the best he can considering the circumstances and loves him even more for it. The same nuance can be found in other aspects of this novel as well. It strikes a perfect balance of telling a story for adult readers, from the perspective of a young child. Every single character is lovable but flawed (including the dead ones!) and perhaps most importantly: it hit the exact right emotional spot for me. Although the story is bleak at times, it’s at always bittersweet, rather than depressing. Grief is balanced out with small moments of joy, loneliness with family-love. It left me with a feeling between nostalgia and homesickness, combined to a perfect cocktail that hurts but also warms and comforts going down.
I feel like this is the kind of book that I will cherish for years to come, not just because of its skill and quality, but also because it touched something personal to me, and made me feel just a little more understood. To me, that’s the highest compliment I have to offer to any book.
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