BOOK CLUB: The Museum of Forgotten Memories

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Author: Anstey Harris
ISBN: 9781471194610
Copy courtesy of Simon and Schuster

The Museum of Forgotten Memories also published as Where We Belong is the second novel by Anstey Harris.  It is a captivating novel which has been beautifully written.


While Cate is in University she meets Richard and his best friend Simon.  They fall in love, marry and have a son, Leo who had downs syndrome.  Their life together was wonderful and they were devoted to giving Leo the best life possible until Richard’s depression surfaced and turned their world upside down.  Cate did everything she could for Richard; making sure he was in a safe environment, being supportive and understanding, seeking help and seeing psychiatrists but the black dog haunted him and he was no longer the man he was.  Simon came to stay to help with the care of Leo and ease the burden for Cate running a household and looking after Richard.  One day the growls of the black dog became too much for Richard, it snapped, lunged and sunk its teeth in until there was nothing left in him to fight and he took his life. 

Cate is overwhelmed with anger, guilt and grief and struggles to make sense of it all, feeling others who were not directly touched by the suicide do not understand what she is experiencing but she knows she has to do what is necessary for Leo who is also affected by the loss. Simon leaves on another expedition and she is left to pick up the pieces trying to re-establish routine with normalcy.

Over time Cate discovered Richard had taken out numerous loans which he had not paid back and with her becoming redundant from her teaching job the house was going to be repossessed.  She struggles to find another job and make ends meet.  With no options left she turns to Richard’s estate using a clause in the trust allowing her and Leo to move to a small town; Crouch-on-Sea to Richard’s grandfather’s old Victorian museum named “Hatters” which is full of unusual taxidermy exhibits and beautiful sprawling grounds.  Cate and Leo move into the staff quarters joining Araminta the grouchy old caretaker. 

Richard never spoke of the museum and Cate did not know what to expect especially with so many hidden secrets, but despite it being run down, the darkness and gloom she began to fall in love with its quirkiness. The museum becomes under threat of closure due to lack of visitors, putting differences aside Cate and Araminta find a way to work together to bring the museum back to life despite obstacles external and internal which force Cate to challenge herself to look beyond the other side of grief and secure a future for her and Leo. 

I found this novel to be a great read exploring mental health issues, suicide, disability, loss, finding inner strength and starting over in the aftermath of a loved one’s suicide when you feel as though the suffering will never end.  

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading The Museum of Forgotten Memories by Antsey Harris. You can read their comments below, or add your own review!

4 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Museum of Forgotten Memories

  1. The museum of forgotten memories is the second book by author Anstey Harris. Set in England, Cate and Leo find themselves homeless after Cate is made redundant from her beloved teaching job, four years after her husband’s suicide. Thanks to a family trust that enables the descendants of her husband’s grandfather, Richard, to permanently reside at their estate in Crouch-on-Sea, Cate clings to this lifeline and relocates from London.
    Since Richard’s death the estate has been turned into a museum, and the less than welcoming caretaker is obviously not happy to have Cate intrude upon her working, and living, space. Araminta is prickly from the get-go, but dotes on Leo, and eventually she and Cate come to a grudging friendship to enable them to work together to save the museum, which is at risk of closure.
    I loved Anstey’s first novel and equally enjoyed her writing in this book. Her lyrical style brings the museum, with its enormous collection of taxidermist animals and treasures from around the world, to life. A thoughtful reflection on depression, suicide and familial loyalty, the book has a couple of surprises to keep things interesting, and a couple that you guess along the way. It had me turning the pages into the early hours. I look forward to reading more of Anstey Harris’s work in the future.

  2. Four years after the death of her husband, Richard Lyons-Morris, Cate is still in mourning. She has lost her teaching job and can no longer afford to live in the London flat she and Richard shared with their son Leo. A beacon of light is that she and Leo are entitled to live in rooms in Richard’s family home ‘Hatters Museum’ in Crouch-on-Sea. The Museum has been in Richard’s family for decades; being founded by Richard’s grandfather. The Museum is an interesting mix of exhibits and beautiful gardens but unfortunately it is not profitable and is on the verge of closing down.
    Cate and Leo arrive at the Museum to meet Araminta the caretaker and guardian who has lived there most of her life. It is not an easy transition but Cate and Leo come to love the Museum and are invested in it’s future.

    The Museum of Forgotten Memories is a wonderful story about family secrets, mental health, relationships, grief and loss. A really enjoyable read.

  3. The Museum of Forgotten Memories. By Anstey Harris

    Cate Morris is laid off from her teaching job. Her husband Richard passed away four years ago, so Cate is now solely responsible for their son Leo. With no job, she can’t pay the rent on their London apartment, so she is forced to seek help from Richard’s family, whom they have had very little to do with.

    Cate and Leo move to Richard’s family Estate – and must adjust to living in their rooms above the business: a museum, which is struggling to keep going. The caretaker is a crotchety old lady who rubs Cate up the wrong way, but seems smitten with Leo, who has Downs Syndrome.

    Both Leo and Cate are amazed by the exhibits in the museum, which was started by Richard’s Grandfather in their old Victorian mansion. Cate falls in love with the quirky taxidermy exhibits, and the sprawling grounds. As Leo is Richard’s only child, he will retain a lifetime interest in the estate. Cate sets out on a plan to revive interest in the museum and improve the income to make it viable again. But caretaker Araminta is wary of everything Cate suggests, and as there is no money available in the business, Cate uses her teaching redundancy pay to start an adverting campaign to promote the museum.

    The locals from the village pitch in to help, as they were very fond of Richard’s Grandfather. Cate wonders why Richard never brought her and Leo here to visit. Why did Richard fall out with his Grandfather? Was that the reason for all the demons Richard was troubled by? And will things turn around for the Museum so that it can support her and Leo to settle down here, as they have grown to love the village, and the museum.

    This is such an interesting and different story line, I was hooked by the first chapter and couldn’t put it down.
    Thank you Beauty & Lace Bookclub, HarperCollins Publishing, and Simon & Schuster Books for the chance to read and review this fascinating story.

  4. Thank you to Beauty and Lace book club @beautyandlacemag for another astounding novel to read and thank you to the publishers Simon & Schuster @simonandschuster for believing in Anstey to publish this great work.

    The first chapter jumped in with both feet, setting the emotional scene for this story and highlighting the fragility of the human mind and human life.

    The story is about a couple, Richard and Cate, who have a son, Leo with an extra chromosome, who, all at once, have to come to terms with both the death of the boy’s father, Richard, and a sudden move from London flat to a rural property of such size that it hosts a full size museum with gardens and art studio.

    Every scene is described vividly, but in the first few chapters, the characters don’t have the depth that I would have liked; they seem quite shallow. Thankfully this was short-lived and around page 150 the characters grew deeper and more complex, addressing many real-life issues with depth and compassion and a perfectly appropriate amount of gentle humour.

    There is a twist of events that is written so vividly that I could see it unfolding like a scene in a movie.
    By the time I reached just over halfway in the book, I was emotionally invested in the characters and I could not put this book down.

    Being written in the first person is refreshing and easy to empathise with the characters. Araminta (the owner of the museum and the vast property) and Cate start out having a hostile relationship, but bond closely toward the end, forming an unlikely pair.

    Anstey, your eloquent words were selected so mindfully, and provided exquisite imagery for the torment of the suicidal mind. It brought tears to my eyes.

    I can’t wait to read another

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