Book review: The Museum of You

The Museum of You by Carys Bray
(Cornerstone, £7.99)

Carys Bray creates a real world of love, loss, family and friendship in this book about a girl’s attempt to curate her mother’s life – the mother she never knew. Her father, Darren, cannot talk about Becky, the love of his life, who died when baby Clover was just a few weeks old. All his efforts go into raising Clover to be a happy child, with her happiness documented and validated daily by photographs, traditions, and rituals. It is a precarious happiness – built over the abyss of a missing mother.

Clover decides, over the summer holidays as she approaches her twelfth birthday, to build a museum out of the chaos of the spare room into which her father has literally thrown all her mother’s belongings – including junk mail. Bray cleverly weaves into this story completely believable relationships between Clover and a whole cast of characters – each of whom adds something dynamic and meaningful to the plot development.

There is Dagmar, Clover’s classmate: lonely and isolated, needing a friend. Colin, her Dad’s best friend, and his sister Kelly, who clearly is in love with Darren. Mrs Mackerel who lives next door and muddles her words in the most marvellously funny way. Jim, Becky’s brother, struggles with mental health issues and Clover’s Grandad, spends his time ordering on-line and reading Shakespeare.

This may seem a motley crew, but they are integral to the story and we grow to love and appreciate each one as the book gets ever closer to its climax. The writing is subtle and skilful; it is a very long time since I read a book that had me laughing one minute and reading through my tears the next. Ultimately this is a story about love, and I swallowed it down in one long gulp, and finished it feeling refreshed and with my heart well and truly warmed. Highly recommended.

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