I was very pleased to see that Elizabeth Buchan had written another novel as I have enjoyed her books in the past, but when I read the premise of the novel – the public submit items that show broken promises with a brief explanation – I thought the book would be whimsical, fanciful and not my kind of thing, but I was wrong!
We meet Laure Carlyle, the curator of the museum in Paris, when she is in her fifties. She is half French, half Yorkshire and has had an interesting life which unfolds gradually as we learn of her experiences in Prague in 1986 and in Berlin in 1996.
The clever writing style means that the whole story is not revealed until the very end. Laure admits that she is living with ghosts as there is so much she does not know from her past. In Prague, in her twenties and working as an au pair, she becomes involved with Tomas, a rock musician and political activist at a turbulent time and I loved learning about this time and place. The author is very good at showing the awkwardness and bafflement of a foreigner in the claustrophobic atmosphere where everyone is being watched and reported on. There is real feeling in the love affair between Laure and Tomas and impending doom does not spoil the tenderness between them. Love, fear and grief, improperly understood, are the themes throughout. In Berlin in 1996 we learn more about her later life and her relationship with her employer from the Prague days and secrets come to light.
The stories of the objects donated to the museum make the reader think, and the other minor characters play their parts well.
This novel is interesting and satisfying on many levels. True emotion, evocative descriptions and the whole culture of Prague in 1986 make for a fascinating and readable novel.
Dorothy Anderson 5/5
The Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan
Corvus 9781786495280 hbk Sep 2019