The Museum of Broken Promises – Elizabeth Buchan
Publication Date: April 2, 2020
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. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
I would like to thank Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for The Museum of Broken Promises. The book was published by Corvus on April 2, 2020. I was provided with an advance copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review. If you would like to check out the other stops on the tour, you can find further information at the bottom of this post.
When I read the synopsis of The Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan I was immediately intrigued, and knew that I had to read this book. If you frequent my blog on a regular basis, you likely know that historical fiction is my favourite genre. However, you may be surprised to learn that I have not read many historical fiction novels set during the Cold War. I am not entirely sure why that is, because it is a fascinating period of history. I was also drawn to this book because of the setting. Paris and Prague are two of my favourite cities, and it was lovely to visit them through a book while there are still restrictions on travel. And, of course, I was fascinated by the concept of the museum itself.
Laure, the protagonist in this novel, is a fascinating woman. She is originally from Yorkshire, but after her father suddenly died she left university and moved to Paris, where she became the au pair for a Czech family, the Kobes. When the Kobes family moves back to Prague for the summer, Laure travels with them. Her eyes are opened to an entirely new world; Prague in the 1980’s under Communist rule is nothing like Paris or rural Yorkshire. She is exposed to the rich Czech culture, as well as the fear that pervades the life of many – especially the young rebels that she finds herself becoming friends with. The Kobes family is influential, and they do not approve of Laure’s new friends. As she becomes closer to Tomas, a young Czech rebel, she finds herself under increased scrutiny by those in charge.
In modern day Paris, Laure runs the museum of broken promises. This museum is truly fascinating; instead of art, it displays personal objects that have been donated to the museum. Each object has a rich backstory, usually one that is sad and deeply personal. I was enthralled by the narrative surrounding this museum, and do actually wish that the story line focused on it a bit more. I could happily read about the various objects in this museum all day, and would love to visit a museum such as this one in real life.
Modern day Laure has not come to terms with her past. She is living a half life in a way; she doesn’t seem to want to enjoy life for what it is, because of everything that has happened in her past. The gradual reveal of Laure’s history made for a deeply moving reading experience. Getting to know Laure during the various periods of her life – in Prague as a young woman in the 1980’s, in Berlin after the reunification of Germany, and in Paris in modern day – was compelling. Although The Museum of Broken Promises is not a fast-paced novel, there was enough intrigue that I did not want to put it down until all my questions were answered.
The tone of The Museum of Broken Promises is moody and atmospheric. Conversations come across as calculated. Things are not always as they seem in this book. It is a beautiful love story, but it is also a story of lies, deceit, and a hint of espionage. I could not get enough of this book, and I highly recommend it for any historical fiction fans.
Elizabeth Buchan was a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full time. Her novels include the prizewinning Consider the Lily, international bestseller Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman and The New Mrs Clifton. 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 she has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes.