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Book Review: The Museum of You by Carys Bray

Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she’s not sure. She’d like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories. 

Darren has done his best. He’s studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want – everything he can think of, at least – to be happy.

What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is full of her mother’s belongings. Volume isn’t important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.

But what you find depends on what you’re searching for.

Having enjoyed Carys Bray’s short stories and her first novel, A Song for Issy Bradley, I was excited to read this, her second novel. And she very quickly had me wrapped up in the lives of Clover and her dad, Darren. Both Clover and Darren miss Clover’s mother who died when Clover was still a baby. It’s such a painful memory for Darren that Clover doesn’t know how to ask her Dad about the one person she’d love to know more about in order to understand herself better. She can’t know herself when she only knows half of her story. Meanwhile, Darren is doing the best job he can bringing up Clover as a single parent and ensuring that she is growing up a happy child. As Darren won’t tell her anything, she decides to make it a project of her summer holiday to play detective and piece together for herself what her mother was like from the belongings Darren has kept in the second bedroom.

Carys Bray is a wonderful storyteller who lets her story unfold at just the right pace. She writes with such warmth and feeling for her characters that you can’t help but warm to them yourself; this is especially true of Clover and Darren, but it also applies to the wider circle of family, friends and neighbour. Even when those characters are at times a drain on Darren’s energies, like Uncle Jim, or try his or Clover’s patience, as in the case of the neighbour.

Carys Bray’s descriptions conjure up the world Clover and her Dad move in so well that I felt as if I were there with them; she takes you through their house, walks you around the allotment, and creates their world with layer upon layer of wonderful detail, deceptively simple but beautiful description and telling observations. If only Clover and her dad, Darren, could read each other as well as Carys Bray knows and understands people, and her characters, their lives up to this summer might have been smoother. It’s fascinating to see the way in which the father and daughter misread each other, and the way in which Clover comes up with her own history behind the objects she collects for her Museum, so often at odds with reality.

I loved this and can highly recommend paying the entrance fee for The Museum of You. It’s another wonderfully warm, heartfelt story from Carys Bray.

The Museum of You is Carys Bray’s second novel and it is published by Hutchinson as an ebook and in hardback today. You can buy it from Amazon UK, Book Depository, Hive, Waterstones or Wordery. You can find out more about Carys Bray on her Author Website or on Twitter

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher through the Amazon Vine program and a copy of this review was first published on the Amazon UK website here

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