Reviewed by Louise Wykes
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 read Carys Bray’s debut novel at one of my book club meetings and having found much to admire and discuss, I was really excited to get the chance to read The Museum of You, her follow up novel and if possible, I loved it and enjoyed it more than the first.
Clover has grown up never having known her mother and always feels as if something is missing in her life although she is conscientiously looked after by her father, Darren, her unconventional Uncle Jim and the well-meaning but interfering neighbour, Mrs Mackerel. So one summer, when her dad is at work driving buses, she decides to enter the second bedroom of their house which is home to all manner of things left behind after her mum had gone and decides that she will make a museum all about her mum to try and find some answers.
This is an absolute gem of a book and although it deals with important issues like grief, mental health problems and moving on, it is a book that can make you laugh too. I especially adored Mrs Mackerel’s version of talking – mainly in capital letters as she was slightly deaf and always mixing up her metaphors “NO MAN IS AN ICEBERG” Despite her interfering ways, she only wants the best for Clover and her Dad and always helps out when she can.
The act of Clover trying to make a museum about her mum is her way of hopefully finding answers to the questions she has in her mother’s absence and although the reader is alerted to the incorrectness of some of Clover’s assumptions, it is still a cathartic act that helps Clover and eventually Darren start making plans for the future.
If you’d like an intelligent, heart warming exploration of the fragility and strength of grieving for someone and learning to begin living without them then I highly recommend this wonderful book. Beautifully sad, yet full of tentative hope for a new future, As enjoyable and delicious as a jar of Biscoff spread. Simply magnificent.