First of all, I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of this book by the publisher. If you’ve read my review of her first novel (A Song For Issy Bradley), you’d probably guess that I would have bought it anyway. Still, that’s the formalities out of the way.
The story of Clover and her dad Darren, (and Clover’s mum Becky, who isn’t around any more), is my feel good book of the summer. Yes, Carys Bray has done it again, she’s taken a story of loss, grief and miscommunication and turned it into a celebration of love, friendship and community.
As I said in my review of ‘A Song For Issy Bradley’, Carys Bray’s work gets under my skin. She writes about families, the kind of family we all know, or are part of, and she writes with absolute, unmerciful, unswerving truth. But this isn’t misery lit, it’s a view of real life from the point of view of someone who knows how to love and what it means to grieve.
Darren and his twelve year old daughter Clover have avoided each other’s pain since before Clover can remember. Every day, they find three things to be happy about, and formally celebrate them. It’s important to be happy, and to make sure that the people that you love are happy. But it’s hard work, and when you have other people to care for (like Darren’s widowed dad and Clover’s damaged and vulnerable uncle,) sometimes it’s difficult to make time to be happy, and to take things forward.
Their journey towards a greater understanding of each other takes place during the school summer holidays. Clover has been on a museum trip or two, and has met a museum curator who impressed her greatly. Clover wants to create and curate a museum, and luckily for her, there is a treasure trove of potential exhibits in the spare room, all the stuff about her mum that her dad has never had the energy or the will to sort out. Her exhibition is going to be a surprise, and it’s also going to help her find out more about her mum.
Darren and his twelve year old daughter Clover are beautifully drawn and very believable. They don’t feel like fictional characters, they feel like the people next door, with all their flaws and hopes and dreams. Even with the book read and shelved, they’re still with me, and I’m wondering what they’re up to now. It’s not just the father and daughter that I want to hear more about, because every character in this book deserves a novel of their own.
‘Museum of You’ is out now, published by Hutchinson and available in hard cover, Kindle and ebook formats.