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 make finally face up to her past and celebrate the passionate love which has directed her life.
*I was sent a kindle edition / arc of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
I was so excited to request and read this book based on the synopsis alone; a museum devoted entirely to showcasing objects referencing broken promises and betrayals, big or small. Ranging from photographs, a veil, a cake tin, a pillowcase, all have a unique and complex history. The novel focuses on Laure, who is the owner and curator of the museum, and weaves in and out of the past exploring the broken promise of her own life and a love story which was transformative and has defined her life thus far.
Although the premise was so interesting and sounded like the type of story I would absolutely love, it fell so short for me in so many ways. I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this more but alas, what can you do. My main issue was the complete lack of connection I felt to any of the characters and the relationships. I felt that Laure was not the most interesting of characters and her whole arc just lacked direction in some sense. The parts of the novel in the past felt full of tension and was clearly building up to something, but overall the plot dragged on so much for me that I was mostly bored.
As well as the pacing being off, I also didn’t ‘believe’ in the love story between Laure and Tomas. I just found it quite underwhelming and I didn’t find myself invested in them the way I expected to be. I’m a sucker for a good love story and while this had elements I appreciated, I just couldn’t fully get into it.
What I did enjoy however were the parts about the museum itself and the exploration of the different items on show and the stories behind them. I feel like the novel would have benefitted greatly from having the museum be more of a focus rather than Laure herself, or perhaps a more evenly divided narrative. Although the novel is literally named after the museum, I don’t think it’s utilised to it’s full potential at all which is a real shame since it’s the best thing about the book. I also liked Paris as the setting and the descriptions of the city are just as romantic as one may expect but I liked it. I actually went to look up if such a museum of broken promises exists, sadly it doesn’t but there is a museum of broken relationships in Croatia and LA which sounds incredible. I definitely want to visit if I’m ever in one of those places!
I also thought the glimpse into life in Prague at the time was interesting. Having studied History before and having also read quite a lot of books in the time period, I had some knowledge of what life was like under the communist regime, but the novel includes some finer details. I liked that Buchan includes the importance of the marionettes in Czech culture for instance and the ways that the puppet shows were used as small acts of resistance and to send a message. The marionettes also link in to the plot of the novel and become symbolic and full circle which was a nice touch.
Overall, The Museum of Broken Promises kind of lives up to it’s name and was a disappointing read for me. My own feelings about the book aside however, I can see some people really enjoying this so I would still encourage readers to give this a try and make their own minds up.
Until next time,