Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK
Publication Date: 14 May 2020
One family learning to love again.
Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are homeless, adrift. They’ve packed up the boxes from their London home, said goodbye to friends and colleagues, and now they are on their way to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – to stay just for the summer. Cate doesn’t want to be there, in Richard’s family home without Richard to guide her any more. And she knows for sure that Araminta, the retainer of the collection of dusty objects and stuffed animals, has taken against them. But they have nowhere else to go. They have to make the best of it.
But Richard hasn’t told Cate the truth about his family’s history. And something about the house starts to work its way under her skin.
Can she really walk away, once she knows the truth?
Having loved Anstey Harris’ debut novel, The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, I came to Where We Belong(US title – Museum of Forgotten Memories) with some pretty high expectations. I’m happy to say that the book is an absolute delight!
It follows fifty-something Cate Morris and her son Leo as they move from their London home to an old rundown museum, Hatters, in the wilds of Kent. The property was once the family home of Cate’s deceased husband Richard and remains filled with memories and mysteries, as well as a menagerie of taxidermied (is that a word?!) animals and a crotchety retainer, Araminta Buchan. Despite the move being due to necessity rather than desire, Cate and Leo find the dusty old museum gradually drawing them in.
The fascinating characters and the intricacies of the relationships between them make for a compelling story. Cate is still haunted by the death of her husband 7 years earlier and it was interesting to witness how being in his childhood home helps her come to terms with her past and gives her the courage to start looking to her future. Leo is a wonderful character, his positivity and happiness were both refreshing and aspirational. I particularly liked the development of Araminta’s character and the gradual reveal of the background to her unwavering loyalty to Hatters museum, Colonel Hugo and the Lyons-Morris family. The book explores family dynamics, particularly the boundaries between love, loyalty and betrayal. It also demonstrates the power of friendship and community.
The writing is richly descriptive, yet avoids being overly verbose, allowing the reader to become absorbed in the museum surroundings whilst retaining an easy-to-read quality. I could visualise myself strolling through the museum’s numerous exhibitions. I liked the use of emails between Cate and her friend Simon, a useful tool for revealing snippets about her married life and prompting memories of times past.
Where We Belong is a wonderfully nuanced and elegant tale of love, loss and belonging. It is charming, touching and very engaging. A truly marvellous book, which I would highly recommend.
Many thanks to SJV and the time at Books and The City for sending me an advance copy of Where We Belong.
About the Author
Anstey Harris is based by the seaside in south-east England where she lives with her violinmaker husband and two dogs. She teaches creative writing in the community, local schools, and as an associate lecturer for Christchurch University in Canterbury.
Anstey writes about the things that make people tick, the things that bind us and the things that can rip us apart. In 2015, she won the H G Wells Short Story Prize for her story, Ruby. In novels, Anstey tries to celebrate uplifting ideas and prove that life is good and that happiness is available to everyone once we work out where to look (usually inside ourselves). Her short stories tend not to end quite so well…
Things that interest Anstey include her children and granddaughter, green issues and conservation, adoption and adoption reunion (she is an adopted child, born in an unmarried mothers’ home in Liverpool in 1965), stepfamilies, dogs, and food. Always food. She would love to be on Masterchef but would never recover from the humiliation if she got sent home in the first round.