Published by Black Swan
Publication date – 26 December 2019
Source – review copy
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, neither 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?
Tina writes to a man from her past, a man she has never met. She is grieving her friend and doesn’t expect a reply. Then she receives one from Anders, a museum curator, who in turn does not expect a response. Slowly the two exchange letters, each one revealing a little more about the writer, and each one teaching the reader a little more about themselves.
There is something about epistolary stories that make them both at once intimate and yet keeps the reader at a distance. The author allows the reader to see only those aspects of the characters that are revealed in the letters. We miss out on events as they happen and see them only from the distance of the past, as reflected on by the letter writer. The technique allows the reader to feel closer to the letter writers though, as if they have let the reader in on a secret that no one else is allowed to know.
The enjoyment of the story slowly creeps up on the reader. I liked the opening letters but wasn’t hugely drawn in, but the more letters I read, the more I wanted to read. Slowly the reader gets to know more about Tina and Anders. We see how Tina’s marriage has developed over the years, how she sees herself in the role that has been organically created for her. We see how Anders is recovering from the loss of his wife, and how he coped when she was alive. Through their letters the reader finds out snippets of the lives of two families separated by a sea.
Tina and Anders’ letters are often introspective. Both look back at what was and how it has led them to where they are today. Each of them little realise at first that this introspective look, one which both of them sometimes think is a selfish way to correspond, actually helps the other to learn more about themselves. And to find courage when they did not know they needed it.
Meet Me at the Museum shows how relationships can be built and strengthen through the written word. It shows how they can break down and shatter through the spoken word, or through the lack of words at all.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Meet Me at the Museum and getting to know Tina and Anders through their correspondence. I just wish there had been one final letter from Tina.
A quiet, gently told tale that is all the more impactful for it.