Saturday 12 May 2018

Meet Me At The Museum by Anne Youngson @DoubledayUK @alisonbarrow @TransworldBooks

Sometimes it takes a stranger to really know who you are

When Tina Hopgood writes a letter of regret to a man she has never met, she doesn’t expect a reply.

When Anders Larsen, a lonely museum curator, answers it, nor does he.

They’re both searching for something, they just don’t know it yet. 

Anders has lost his wife, along with his hopes and dreams for the future. Tina is trapped in a marriage she doesn’t remember choosing.

Slowly their correspondence blossoms as they bare their souls to each other with stories of joy, anguish and discovery. But then Tina’s letters suddenly cease, and Anders is thrown into despair.

Can their unexpected friendship survive?

Meet Me At The Museum by Anne Youngson is published by Doubleday on 17th May 2018 and is the author's debut novel. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This is a short novel at just 224 pages, but it's a story that creeps into the heart and stays there. Wonderfully written, centred on just two main characters, but beguiling and beautiful and so very insightful.

Tina Hopgood had always planned to visit the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark. Fifty years ago a book written by Professor Glob from the Silkeborg was dedicated to her and thirteen of her schoolfriends. Tina is now a farmer's wife in Bury St Edmonds, East Anglia, and whilst she and her friend Bella often talked about when they would visit, it never was quite the right time. Now Bella is gone and Tina has written to Professor Glob about who she is now and why she never visited.

Of course, Professor Glob died years ago, but Tina receives a response from the current curator; Kristian Larsen. This is the beginning of an extraordinary relationship between them; two people who appear to have nothing in common, until they begin to open up about their own individual lives.

At the heart of Meet Me At the Museum are two lonely people. Kristian lives alone, his wife is dead, his children live in other cities. Tina, on the other hand, lives amongst a large family; her husband, children, their partners and her grandchildren are all around her, every day. Yet, she is lonely. Her letters to Kristian reveal a woman who married and helps to run a farm, almost by accident. It's not something she ever yearned to do, but it's expected of her, and she carries out her duties willingly. Yet, still, she is very lonely.

As the letters flow back and forth across the continent, Tina and Kristian become more familiar. The use of their names, the tender signing off at the end of each letter; these things grow, letter by letter. As they write, it is apparent that they are sharing things that they've never vocalised before, maybe never even admitted to themselves, and the reader is witness to their gently unfurling stories. Sometimes funny, always full of facts that could be mundane, but are rendered quite beautiful through the author's words.  There's sadness and pain, confessions of regret and anger, yet it is always such a joyful and tender look at a blossoming relationship.

Meet Me At the Museum touched me so much. I was enraptured by the writing, and loved the structure of the letters. This is such a simple story, yet is told with a passion and emotion that is quite breathtaking. A wonderfully written story, and highly recommended by me.

Anne had a long and successful career in the motor industry after finishing a degree in English from Birmingham. She most recently worked for Land Rover, as Chief Engineer, Defender replacement and, finally, MD of the Special Vehicle Operations. Having taken early retirement, she worked as an Enterprise Advisor to schools, before joining a small consultancy team, working on major skills development programmes for a range of clients.
After leaving the motor industry, she began to take writing more seriously. She did an Undergraduate diploma at the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education and an MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes, achieving a distinction in both. She co-wrote two books on the Motor Industry with ex-colleagues: WHEN ROVER MET HONDA, a collection of case studies on collaborative working with the Japanese, and BRITISH LEYLAND MOTOR CORPORATION 1968-2005, published in 2015.
Anne is married, with two adult children and one grandchild to date – two more on the way. Her husband ran a plant nursery until recently, and she has a 2-acre garden open to the public through the National Garden Scheme. She has supported many charities in governance roles, including Chair of the Writers in Prison Network, which provided residencies in prisons for professional writers, until it lost its Arts Council funding.
She is now studying for a PhD at Oxford Brookes. The creative part of the qualification will be stories which explore how to begin. Her debut novel MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM was published by Transworld on 17th May 2018.

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