I really loved Anstey Harris’s The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, released in early 2019. It is an understated book. If I wanted to sound wanky I’d say it’s about the human condition. Or perhaps it’s about all of those things that happen in our lives that make us the people we are. That make us ‘why’ we are.
The Museum of Forgotten Memories offers something quite different. Again though there’s some quirk, past secrets and a focus on relationships.
Harris keeps some information back from readers here. I could tell she was being cagey in the beginning and I thought I knew what it was. It seemed I was wr-wr-wrong and it reminded me a little of Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.The Museum of Forgotten Memories
by Anstey Harris
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia
Genres: Women's Fiction, General Fiction
Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are homeless, adrift. They’ve packed up the boxes from their London home, said goodbye to friends and colleagues, and now they are on their way to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – to stay just for the summer.
Cate doesn’t want to be there, in Richard's family home without Richard to guide her any more. And she knows for sure that Araminta, the retainer of the collection of dusty objects and stuffed animals, has taken against them. But they have nowhere else to go. They have to make the best of it.
But Richard hasn’t told Cate the truth about his family’s history. And something about the house starts to work its way under her skin.
Harris throws readers a few curveballs here. I mention one above, something early on that comes as a surprise, very cleverly kept. But they keep coming.
I really enjoyed this book and like Grace Atherton, it’s very much about the characters. And though I hate the word, Harris takes them (Cate, Leo and Araminta) on a journey of sorts.
There are deeper messages about not judging others and being more flexible and open in our suppositions and thinking. There’s a real sense of the need to find balance when it comes to accepting people as they are and not expecting them to change; but at the same time encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone. We certainly see Cate hovering over her son and giving him less independence than others may think he should have.
Of course Cate and Leo are there because of Richard, so we delve into their story a little. The immediate attraction between the pair years before. Their early life together and then the changes that came, their nascence and the end result.
So there’s an underpinning secrets, regret, guilt and redemption at play as well. Weirdly, though this is incredibly sad at times it is also kinda uplifting… there’s a sense of hope.
There’s significant debate (well comment) on the act of killing, preserving and collecting animals. And there’s an interesting discussion about preserving animals at threat of becoming extinct (and yes, I realise there’s an irony there) for future generations to study and appreciate.
I really enjoyed this book by Harris. Possibly not as much as her previous book but that was more about me being able to identify with Grace more than Cate.
The Museum of Forgotten Memories by Anstey Harris will be published in Australia by Simon & Schuster and is now available. .
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.