I’m delighted to share my thoughts with you today on The Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan.
Paris, today. The Museum of Broken Promises is a place of wonder and sadness, hope and loss. Every object in the museum has been donated – a cake tin, a wedding veil, a baby’s shoe. And each represent a moment of grief or terrible betrayal. The museum is a place where people come to speak to the ghosts of the past and, sometimes, to lay them to rest. Laure, the owner and curator, has also hidden artefacts from her own painful youth amongst the objects on display.
Prague, 1985. Recovering from the sudden death of her father, Laure flees to Prague. But life behind the Iron Curtain is a complex thing: drab and grey yet charged with danger. Laure cannot begin to comprehend the dark, political currents that run beneath the surface of this communist city. Until, that is, she meets a young dissident musician. Her love for him will have terrible and unforeseen consequences.
It is only years later, having created the museum, that Laure can finally face up to her past and celebrate the passionate love which has directed her life.
The Museum of Broken Promises is published by Corvus and is available to purchase in digital, hardcover and audiobook. The paperback publishes 2nd April 2020.
I was hooked from the prologue. And as the story moves along I was pulled in deeper and deeper.
We witness some poignant scenes in the museum and through journalist May, get to see interviews where hopeful donators emotions are pared down to the core. Such pain and anguish from those broken promises. Laure’s own artefacts take us back to 1986 in Prague as an au pair to the Kobes family. This is so compelling – the atmosphere heavy and full of fear during the Cold War. Living alongside the characters gave me the chills. It made me realise just how fortunate we are to have the freedom to think and act. Yes, I saw the media during the Velvet Revolution in 1989 when the Berlin Wall was hacked down but it didn’t really have an impact on my life. The Museum of Broken Promises is thought provoking and brings reality to those televised images.
The undercurrents of the complicated relationship Laure has with the Kobes come out of the shadows 10 years after Laure leaves their employ. Bleak oh so bleak. It’s a journey they must take to be able to start to heal and move on.
Although I didn’t get my Happy Ever After in one respect, it was close enough. I cried at the ending (Milos!). Closure isn’t always about love for another. Forgiveness for one’s self and loving oneself is also an important emotional healing.
The Museum of Broken Promises is a story about the headiness of the first time you fall in love with the complication of living in a Communist state. It’s about fighting for your beliefs and shows us how experiences shape lives for ever.
Elizabeth Buchan began her
career as a blurb writer at Penguin Books after graduating from the University
of Kent with a double degree in English and History. She moved on to become a
fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full time. Her novels
include the prizewinning Consider the Lily – reviewed in the Independent as ‘a
gorgeously well written tale: funny, sad and sophisticated’. A subsequent
novel, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman became an international bestseller and
was made into a CBS Primetime Drama. She received letters from all over the
world after it was published and people still come up at book events to say how
much the novel affected them. Later novels included The Second Wife, Separate
Beds, Daughters. After talking to some amazing women who had been employed by
SOE, she wrote the Danish wartime resistance story, I Can’t Begin to Tell You,
which was reviewed as ‘nerve-jinglingly engrossing’ by the Sunday Times. The
New Mrs Clifton is based on a situation that happened in her own family after
the war – only in reverse. Her latest novel is The Museum of Broken Promises
which Marion Keyes has called ‘a gem of a book’.
Elizabeth Buchan’s short stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in magazines. She reviews for the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail, and has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes. She was a judge for the Whitbread First Novel Award and for the 2014 Costa Novel Award . She is a patron of the Guildford Book Festival and co-founder of The Clapham Book Festival.
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