The Museum of You by Carys Bray
Published by Hutchinson in June 2016
My copy: Hardback
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.
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. But what you find depends on what you’re searching for.
Last year I read, and really enjoyed, A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray, so I was pleased when her new novel was chosen by my book group. And I wasn’t at all disappointed and, in fact, I think this one is even better.
It’s the start of the summer holidays, and twelve-year-old Clover has been left to her own devices for the first time, as her dad goes off to work as a bus driver. As well as tending to her grandad’s old allotment, Clover also starts to wade through the clutter of her mum’s old bedroom to try and piece together her life.
I found this to be a really sweet, funny, sad and touching novel. It is the characters that make it, from the lovely but confused Clover, to her agoraphobic granddad and shouty lady next door, Mrs Mackerel. There isn’t a huge cast of characters in the novel, but all of them are well rounded with their own characteristics – and issues.
One of the most important characters in the novel is actually completely absent from it – that of Clover’s mum Becky. Throughout the novel, we piece together a more complete picture of this character, and we slowly find out what exactly happened back when Clover was born and why her mum is no longer around.
I loved the sections of the book where Clover looks through her mum’s old things, trying to find clues as to the person she was and creating a museum dedicated to her. This was really bittersweet – especially as we find out some things that Clover herself doesn’t realise when we get sections told from her dad’s point of view.
This book has a bit of everything, and I thought it was brilliantly well written. It isn’t action-packed with huge plot twists and turns; instead it is really quite simple and gentle in many ways, yet the lovely characters make it utterly readable.