Title: The Museum of Forgotten Memories
Author: Anstey Harris
Published: June 1st 2020
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
From the bestselling author of The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton
Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World, a dilapidated, once-whimsical museum, offers unexpected solace to a grieving widow, and exposes secrets that will alter the course of her life.
When Cate and Richard met at university they felt an immediate spark, but as the couple matured Richard’s inner demons threatened their happiness. With time, he receded further and further into darkness until he disappeared altogether.
Now, four years after Richard’s passing, Cate is let go from her teaching job and can’t pay the rent on the London flat she shares with her and Richard’s son, Leo. She packs the two of them up and ventures to Richard’s grandfather’s old Victorian museum in the small town of Crouch-on-Sea, where the dusty staff quarters await her. Despite growing pains and a grouchy caretaker, Cate falls in love with the quirky taxidermy exhibits and sprawling grounds and makes it her mission to revive them. But as Cate becomes more invested in Hatters, she must finally confront the reality of Richard’s death – and the role she played in it – in order to reimagine her future.
The Museum of Forgotten Memories masterfully weaves life with death, past with present, and grief with hope.
It only feels like yesterday that I discovered the writing of Anstey Harris and her beautiful novel, The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton. Praised by author Kate Furnivall as ‘superb’, Anstey Harris returns with a moving new novel. The Museum of Forgotten Memories encompasses themes of regret, loss, redemption, acceptance and progress. Anstey Harris has managed to compose another heartbreaking yet hopeful novel.
The Museum of Forgotten Memories traces the relationship from start to finish of Cate and Richard. We witness their fateful meeting during their university days, to their grand love affair, through to the hard times they weathered together through Richard’s illness. Sadly, Richard pulled further and further away from Cate as his personal issues took a hold of his life. Since Richard passed away, Cate has struggled to uphold her life both personally and financially. With a young son to care for, Cate knows she must find alternative accommodation, following the loss of her job and her London flat. Cate flees to the home of Richard’s grandfather, which is also a Victorian era mansion. At first Cate approaches her new abode with some trepidation, especially at it houses a rather creepy taxidermy collection, but eventually the charm of the mansion wins Cate over. Feeling inspired to help resurrect the grounds and exhibits, Cate throws herself headfirst into restoring her new home to its former glory. But in completing this overhaul, Cate faces some hard truths about her relationship with Richard, the past and the future.
Firstly, I must say that the cover of The Museum of Forgotten Memories completely won me over. I love all the symbolic motifs that adorn this exquisite cover. I jumped to conclusions about this one and I assumed that Anstey Harris’ new tale was going to be a gothic fiction novel, with a past to present style story. However, after reading the synopsis and beginning chapter one, I soon realised that I was quite mistaken. The Museum of Forgotten Memories is a contemporary fiction novel that focuses on the emotional pain that we experience in life. The Museum of Forgotten Memories is about grief, loss, making amends and looking to a hopeful future. It is a tale that resonates thanks to the author’s strong insightful gaze into her key themes.
The Museum of Forgotten Memories is quite a sad tale, there are strong tones of sorrow, regret, blame, deep hurt and overwhelming loss. These feelings are incredibly cutting at many points so the novel, resulting in an emotive response on behalf of the reader. I wasn’t expecting this reaction at all and it came as quite a surprise. I think you need to be prepared for an emotional journey once you settle into this one. Anstey Harris is writer who is in tune with the feelings of her protagonists and The Museum of Forgotten Memories is a novel that leans heavily towards a character focused journey. This is a wholly reflective kind of tale, where it is more about the lead coming full circle in accepting the past in order to move on to a brighter future.
As characterisation is clearly Anstey Harris’ forte, the presence of the Victorian mansion, the lead’s new home, looms large over this story. I did love the presentation of this stately abode, which we learn has lost its sheen due to age and neglect. The rich descriptions of the sprawling grounds, the shadowy presence of the taxidermy exhibits, the library and of course the caretaker adds plenty of atmosphere to this life affirming tale. I’m sure readers will be taken in by the charm of this locale, which is expressed on the pages of this novel very well thanks to the author’s prose.
I felt that the central focus of The Museum of Forgotten Memories was principally the demise of a relationship and the personal demons we carry with us. For some we are able to tame our person demons and the inner torment that comes from a debilitating mental illness. However, there are those like Richard who are unable to overcome these feelings and sadly they submit to the inevitable. This was a deeply upsetting realisation, especially in regards to Cate and her son Leo. I think Anstey Harris has tapped into an important societal and personal issue. They are some rays of light that begin to break through this rather difficult tale of immense loss, remorse and condemnation, giving the audience a sense of hope for the lead.
The Museum of Forgotten Memories is a contemplative contemporary fiction offering that considers emotional turmoil, devastating grief, the past, anguish, heartache and future plans. The Museum of Forgotten Memories is a considerate novel from an observant writer that I have come to appreciate for the second time over.
The Museum of Forgotten Memories by Anstey Harris was published on 1st June 2020 by Simon & Schuster. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Museum of Forgotten Memories, Anstey Harris, here.
*I wish to thank Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.