Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Elizabeth Buchan’

The Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan

I had a feeling that I’d already read something by Elizabeth Buchan when I came across The Museum of Broken Promises so searched my blog’s archives and found that I’d previously read The Good Wife Strikes Back. According to my review I enjoyed The Good Wife but thought that I’d forget the plot sooner rather than later.

I also enjoyed The Museum of Broken Promises but think it has more depth than The Good Wife.

The Museum of Broken Promises‘ story is told across three timelines, a style which I’m a little tired of but will say that it worked well for this story. In 1985 the main character Laure Carlyle was a teenager working as a nanny in Prague for a privileged family, by 1996 brief glimpses into Laure’s life show her working as a cultural attache to the British Embassy in Berlin and in the present in Paris, Laure’s creation of a Museum of Broken Promises is a runaway success.

Coming from safe, free England, Laure found Czechoslovakia in 1985 to be drab, but once she fell in with a group of puppeteers and a rock band who were flirting dangerously with political dissidence her life became far more exciting. When Laure fell in love with the band’s lead singer Tomas, they were both exposed to danger.

In present-day Paris, one of Laure’s responsibilities was curating objects for the Museum which were displayed to illustrate stories of broken promises. Some objects represented the failure of government’s promises to their citizens, while others were children’s toys representing broken promises made to the children by their parents. Not surprisingly, items representing failed relationships featured heavily. Several of the displays featured items from Laure’s time in Prague and related to Tomas.

While I enjoyed the story I had to suspend my disbelief over certain plot lines which glossed over some fairly big issues.

I knew very little about Czechoslovakian history prior to reading this story and have since skimmed the surface to read about the Velvet Revolution. I’d love to read a novel set during these times by a Czech writer.

I also liked the idea of a museum devoted to broken promises although in the story many of the visitors found themselves grieving in front of objects that triggered their memories. In real life I would probably prefer a museum devoted to reminding me of the joys of life. I will probably read more fiction by Elizabeth Buchan eventually.

The Good Wife Strikes Back by Elizabeth Buchan


The Good Wife Strikes Back by Elizabeth Buchan is the kind of book that a middle aged woman, tied down by a family who take her for granted and stuck in a dreary job, could read and begin imagining her own escape from real life.

The story is told by Fanny Savage, who is the wife of English politician Will Savage. Fanny has been a ‘good wife’ for over twenty years and gave up her own career in her father’s wine business to support Will’s ambitions. She regularly attends public engagements, undertakes behind the scenes work, dresses appropriately and never voices her true political opinions, except to Will.

During this time Fanny has also been virtually a single mother to her and Will’s daughter Cleo, and a carer for Will’s sister Meg, who is an alcoholic. Meg and her son Sasha also live with Fanny and Will.

Wine is Fanny’s true love and once Cleo leaves home to travel after she has finished her exams, Fanny realises she wants her freedom too.

There are a lot of secrets which come out during the telling of this story. I liked most of the characters, but was annoyed by Meg, who is a needy and manipulative woman who relies very heavily on Fanny. Will, although much more likeable than his sister, also needs Fanny much more than she needs him. I would have liked Fanny to have told Meg firmly to butt out of her and Will’s lives and grow up, and not to have allowed Will to use her the way he has, but if Fanny had followed my advice, there wouldn’t have been a story.

I really enjoyed Fanny’s voice in this novel. She has an Italian father and an English mother, and her words are very precise. I wanted her character to escape the confines that Will and Meg keep her in. I wanted her to visit Italy and resume her career and wear dresses without stockings.

I also really liked the cover art on this book, which sums up the characters perfectly. The trees are Cleo and Sasha, the basket of grapes represents Fanny’s father, the suitcase and hat is Fanny, the spilled wine has to be Meg and the sports car, separate to the others, is Will. The back cover has an Italian urn filled with flowers, which describes where Fanny would rather be and the iron depicts her actual life.

The Good Wife Strikes Back was quite an easy read and the story probably won’t stay with me, but while I was reading it, I enjoyed the escape. (Don’t think I’m identifying with Fanny, I love my job, love my husband and wouldn’t change a thing about my life, except to find a little more time to read).

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