The Museum of Broken Promises

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 14 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

I so wanted to like this book, the concept of a Museum of Broken Promises and the Cold War background are both appealing but it just made angry at the choices and improbability of it all.
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This is a novel set in two timelines which unfortunately slows the pace and makes it a slog of a read.  I enjoyed the historical context in which the novel is set but failed to get any empathy for the older Laure.
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Sadly, I wasn't able to finish this one this time, although I do hope to try again in future. It wasn't really what I thought it was - I found the past timeline confusing and the present timeline boring, so ultimately had no motivation to continue. The premise sounded really interesting but the writing was dull and didn’t encapsulate the intrigue that the synopsis expressed. Sadly, I don’t think this book is for me.
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Heart wrenching read and so well written that I didn’t want it to end. A definite recommendation from me
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This book is poignant, emotive, full of love, hurt and history. It is a fabulously encapsulating and enthralling read.
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This is the story of Laure and 'The Museum of Broken Promises', born out of her life experiences, as a young woman in communist Czechoslovakia, and Berlin, after the fall of the wall. The prologue gives you a taste of what is to come and introduces the historical element that underscores the story.

'The Museum of Broken Promises is a place where people can deposit items that represent grief, loss or broken promises in their lives. The idea behind it is uplifting, and the book uses timeslip to see if Laure's contributions to the museum, have a positive effect on her life.

The story moves between  Laure's life in the past and present, introducing a variety of characters, whom she comes into contact with as a naive, young woman, and a stronger older woman. Like all literary fiction, part of the enjoyment is in the beauty of the prose. The characters are often superficial because their function is to contribute to the concept of the museum.

This story needs concentration and time to get the best from it, but if you have a few hours to spare, it will repay the investment of both.

I received a copy of this book from Corvus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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I loved the story as it was set in two of my favourite cities - Paris and Prague. It follows the story of Laure and how circumstances change her life to such an extent and how she manages within the constraints. Beautifully written and a fabulous story. Did not want it to end!
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I loved the premise, the setting and the dual timelines, and thought the writing was really powerful. Ultimately though, I found it a bit slow and difficult to get into - although this is purely a matter of taste and I am certain others would love it
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I absolutely adored this novel. Unique and engaging. I could not put it down. One of her best to date.
I will be recommending this to my book group
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The Museum holds artefacts which are related to broken promises. This is an interesting concept from the start. Based in Eastern Europe around the time the Berlin Wall came down. Lots of interesting historical facts and some emotional reporting..
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I really struggled with this book. The premise sounded great and I was so looking forward to reading it. It was hard to get into and even though I stuck with it did not find myself caring about the characters and felt unfulfilled.
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I felt this book was ok, it was well written and the story was told in a logical order. However I felt that it wasn't really a story that needed telling. By the end I felt like it was just a generic love story with bits going on in the background.

Not something I would recommend but the style of writing was good
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Loved this book and story although got a bit bogged down in the history part but liked the concept of the museum.
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The central character in this novel is Laure, the curator and owner of The Museum of Broken Promises which exists on a back Street in Paris. The items in it have all been donated by people to remember the promises that were broken to them so that, taken as a whole, the exhibition reflects a whole range of tragic human events - small in their own way but consequential for those deceived.

The reason why Laure is so involved in the museum becomes clear as the story shifts between today in Paris and twenty or so years previously when Laure was a gauche and inexperienced young girl in Czechoslovakia in the period after the Dubcek liberalisation programme was crushed by hardline communists. The country and its people were in the grip of constant fear of the secret police and informers, the bang on the door in the night, unexplained disappearances and harsh repression.

Laure was only there because of her Parisian employers, the Kobes family where she was viewed as something like an au pair. She looked after the children, Maria and Jan, while their mother was unwell and, when the family moved back to Prague, she moved with them.

That's the setting and it leads to Laure becoming involved with a group of dissidents who work in a puppet theatre and starting an intense love affair with one of them, Tomas. As this relationship develops, it is disapproved of by the head of the family, Petr Kobes, who - with links to the government and the police - always seems to know what Laure is doing. Eventually, Laure flees the city and her job and Tomas attempts to escape across the closed border and into Austria. He fails and, in the present, Laure lives with their unfulfilled promises and the feeling that he was betrayed before being murdered, and possibly tortured, by government agents. The museum is a kind of memorial to their relationship.

Two things happen in the present to jolt this status quo. An American journalist called May Williams arrives to do an article on the museum and Laure meets up again with Petr Kobes after Czechoslovakia has been returned to democracy and she has the opportunity to ask him what happened to Tomas and how he, Petr, was involved in the betrayal. 

There are some odd contrivances at work in moving the story along. May develops as a character in her own right spending much longer with the museum and Laure than a journalist ever would. Laure develops some strange feelings for Petr and there is a frisson of passion as she tries to seduce him into telling her the truth. In the end, the story is resolved much more easily by May making a few enquiries and identifying who really betrayed Tomas. And, after all that, perhaps Laure can get on with her life!

Although Elizabeth Buchan writes well and can conjure up a city, I wasn't always convinced by this novel. There's a lot of description of the museum and tiny vignettes of the people who come there, as well as a focus on Laure's life and her cat which tended to drag. There also seemed to be some discordance between the Petr of the past and the present while May who started off as a young and slightly insecure journalist blossomed into becoming an investigative reporter. It looked like hard work for Elizabeth Buchan bringing it all together!
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I had really looked forward to this book which I received as an ARC copy via Netgalley Atlantic Books and Corvus. It failed to reach the heights I had ascribed to it. The narrative moved all over the place without any real reason and I felt under-presented the story line. I didn't really feel anything for the characters although i though Petr was the best drawn of them all. There was a part towards the end when the pace and danger within the narrative began to appear but it was too little too late for me
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In Paris there is a strange museum. It is the museum of broken promises & in it are items donated along with the story of why that piece signifies a broken promise. The curator is Laure, an English woman who left after her father's death when she was younger & never went back. Her item's story has its roots in 1980's Czechoslovakia. There against the backdrop of the Communist Eastern Bloc, she fell in love with a rebellious musician.

This story told me a lot I didn't know about the end of the Cold War. However it was the idea of the Museum of Broken Promises that appealed to me in the first place & I was left feeling rather cheated. There was so many stories I wanted to hear & Laure's time in Prague took up most of the book. It is well written & researched. I am sure it will appeal to many, but I was a bit lukewarm about it.  Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for letting me read & review this book.
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Thought provoking and beautifully written. The locations make you want to visit them and find out more. Thank you for letting me review this book.
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Meet Laure, museum creator curator extraordinaire. The Museum is full of donations of items of loss and hope, and love, and it is a curious place that attracts those seeking ghosts, memories, closure or sometimes just to feel something. Laure has a tumultuous past and she has found a way through it by creating the Museum.
In this story the reader embraces themes of pain, grief, heartbreak, disappointment and love. It is a beautiful story that both transports the reader to 1985 Prague but also to a catalogue of real artefacts of broken promises.
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I feel so frustrated to have to say that this just didn’t do it for me, usually I love Elizabeth Buchans books but this just didn’t feel right. 

I found this book very long winded and I struggled to finish it.
However, this wouldn’t put me off reading another book by this author.
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Laure Carlyle is the curator of the Museum of Broken Promises, a unique museum in Paris based on her own concept and made up of objects that people have donated that represent something that’s gone badly wrong in their life – a promise made and later broken, a form of betrayal, secrets and lies. Laure curates these artefacts into a display in her adopted hometown in the hope that letting go of some of the anger, hurt and disappointment that the object embodies will help those who donate to the museum, as well as engage and entertain those that visit to read the stories behind the items. A burgeoning success, there is a lot of media interest in Laure’s museum, and an assertive young journalist named Meg comes to interview her, which is a difficult turn of events for the intensely private Laure to deal with.

We learn via time-slip that back in 1985 as a twenty-year old Laure gave up her university studies after the death of her father, and under orders from her French mother, she moved to Paris to heal. Taking a job as a nanny/au-pair, with the Kobe family, Petr, Eva and their two children, she starts to enjoy life a little again, when suddenly, 3 weeks into her tenure, the family announce that they are to move back to their home country of Czechoslovakia. After giving it some thought, Laure agrees to accompany them, finding Prague a very different place then we know it to be today. Half English/half French Laure is woefully unprepared for the world waiting for her behind the Iron Curtain and has to quickly adapt to a life where her every move is watched, and scrutinised by shadowy figures lurking in doorways, knowing that a simple mistake, or mis-step, can put the Kobes, and herself, in immediate and very real danger.

Young and impressionable, Laure gets involved with a dissident creatives group who use marionette theatre to deliver their messages and very soon, she’s falling for their ‘Pop Star’ leader Tomas. Petr is unhappy with this liaison, ostensibly because Laure is potentially inviting unwanted attention with her behaviour, but also because he quite obviously is developing feelings for her. It’s no real surprise though, she is a young and vivacious woman living in his house alongside him and his children, who clearly love their young nanny. Petra’s wife Eva is still unwell, and appears to be ailing further, and Laure has all but taken over her roles within the household.

Petr warns Laure that she is playing a dangerous game becoming involved with the theatre group and their political leanings, and especially the outspoken Tomas. Laure suspects Petr’s is perhaps not a simple businessman, and that the real reason he is living and working in Prague with an elevated lifestyle is that he is working for the state; a suspicion fed by Tomas and his gang who believe this to be the case. Unsurprisingly, and to Petr’s fury, events spiral out of Laure’s control, and her life and well-being is endangered in a couple of terrifying incidents, which leave her desperate to escape Prague with Tomas.

Fast forward ten years and Laure is in an important role at the British Embassy in Berlin, another city familiar with the difficulties of communism. She meets up with Petr, now working for a large big Pharma company, and she wants answers that she believes he has.

The Museum of Broken Promises is a beautifully written book – you can almost feel the tension in some parts, and the descriptive accounts of Prague under communist rule, and Paris, make it feel so alive. I also loved the concept of Laure’s museum. I was reading day by day as part of the Pigeonhole book club and perhaps that is why, but I found the pace of the book a bit too slow; it felt like it took me quite a while to figure out what the story was actually about. I found the different timeframes a little confusing and unfortunately, although they are multi-faceted and beautifully flawed, I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, except perhaps Laure when she is upset by a missing cat - which is given more context towards the very end of the book.


3.5
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