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June Book Meet me at the Museum

(64 Posts)
Greenfinch Wed 30-May-18 20:04:47

Thanks very much for my copy which arrived this morning.
They are quick off the mark this month. It looks like an interesting read and not too lengthy.I am looking forward to starting it this evening.

GeminiJen Wed 08-Aug-18 10:43:36

Many thanks for taking so much care to provide such thoughtful responses.
Much appreciated flowers

AnneYoungson Wed 08-Aug-18 10:00:37

Thank you to all the thoughtful Gransnet contributors who commented on the book and raised interesting questions. It has been one of the joys of having my work published that I learn how other people react to it, and this gives fresh life to the characters and makes me think again about some aspects of the book that I hadn’t appreciated would carry such meaning for some readers.

The main question, and one I have been asked in events as well, is whether there will be a sequel. I do not plan to write one, and the reason is exactly what one of the contributors wrote in their feedback: ‘I think it is the right place to leave Tina and Anders, we can each visualise our own preferred future for them’. This was the conclusion I came to, too. I know what my preferred future for them would be, but I am happy to hold that in my imagination, knowing other outcomes are also possible. I feel I have taken them on a journey of discovery which has given them new possibilities and new perspectives on life; it is up to them now, whatever they decide.

There is undoubtedly a question about the moral dilemma Tina faces, of whether she was wrong to be engaging in a correspondence with a stranger her husband knows nothing about. This is another topic on which I would anticipate that readers would have different opinions. I think she was right to be concerned that this was disloyal. Relationships depend on loyalty, emotional as well as physical. However, she had demonstrated true loyalty to the partnership with her husband over a number of years, so the lapse, if that is what it was, needs to be seen in the
context of the many failings that both of them had – as everyone does – that meant the partnership was never perfect.

When I started to write the book, I did not have it in mind that this would be an epistolary novel; I thought the exchange of letters would take me so far, and then I might need to find other ways to move the story forward. But there was never a moment when it stopped working; the form was never restricting and I realised the power of showing what these two people were saying by, as it were, eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. So the question of whether I would write another novel in letter format must depend on what that novel sets out to do.

There are very clever tricks a novelist can play with letters. I would pick out Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, a comic novel in which an oppressive regime starts to ban the use of certain letters of the alphabet; the impact of this would be hard to describe unless the communication between citizens was written. Also The Last Summer by Ricarda Huch, written in 1910 about a family in Russia, in which the thoughts and motivations of the members of a family and a visiting secretary are understood by the reader, because they are all writing letters to people outside the family, but hidden from each other. So, if I have an idea as good as either of these, then I might write another epistolary novel, but the one I am working on now does not involve letters.

The background to the story, the two places involved and the occupations of the two correspondents, arose because of the inspiration from the Tollund Man who, as one of your contributors assumes, was indeed the starting point for the story. I have wanted, for a long time, to create something from the thoughts that occurred to me when I looked at his picture and read the poem Seamus Heaney wrote about him, but I could never work out where to start.

When I read the book by Professor Glob, which is dedicated, in a letter, to East Anglian schoolgirls, I had at last the hook I needed. One of these girls, I thought, might naturally pick up a pen when she reached the stage of wondering what life had all been about, and write back.

From this point, as well as the letter format, where Tina and Anders lived was fixed. I could have moved Tina anywhere in the country but I liked the idea of the emptiness and huge skies of East Anglia, the peace and yet the loneliness of the countryside; and I wanted her to be a farmer’s wife because it meant she was grounded in the soil, as the Tollund Man had been. I knew enough about Suffolk and farming, although I have never lived there, nor farmed. I had never been to Denmark either, but obviously Anders had to live in Silkeborg and be a museum curator, so for this I did need to do research, initially on the internet, by reading books and finally by visiting. None of this was a chore; I am pleased to have come to know Denmark in this way.

I have asked myself one of the questions a contributor asks me: do I regret not having started my publishing career when I was younger. On the one hand, the whole experience has been so interesting, so eye-opening and above all such fun, that I think I could have had more of all this if I started years ago. On the other hand, there is a buzz about doing something for the first time.

On this basis, I feel incredibly lucky to have saved up this amazing new career until a point when it might otherwise have been hard to find new things to do. I am also quite sure I could not have written this book when I was younger.

It is because I like to find new things to do that I am studying for a PhD. A creative writing PhD involves producing an original piece of prose, of novel length, and an academic analysis of that writing and whatever overarching theme is being explored. I am looking at how stories start – how do the first words, sentences, paragraphs impact on the way the story unfolds, and on the reader’s relationship with the story. For this, I am writing a collection of short stories (when I started ‘Meet Me at The Museum’ I thought it might turn out to be a short story, but there was little hope of that!).

I have enjoyed both sides of the work for the PhD, and have also valued meeting other research students and finding out about the truly amazing topics they are studying.

One of the questions was about a film. My writing mentor, who is also my tutor on the PhD course and a best-selling author, told me quite early on in the writing process that he could see it as a stage play. No one has suggested that to me, yet, but I have met with some interested parties from the world of film; though I know very little about how films are made, I do know that there are no certainties, so it is unlikely to happen any time soon.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 07-Aug-18 10:16:43


No answers yet? Maybe Anne Youngson is very busy, or on holiday.

We have followed this up

Elrel Sun 05-Aug-18 16:12:42

I guess we’ll never know about the Ragman story.

Grannyknot Wed 25-Jul-18 07:55:42

Just finished reading this book, having been the fortunate recipient of a second-in-line GN copy (someone else passed it on to me).

It took me a while to get into it at first, I was slightly disbelieving of the fact that people would still "put pen to paper" in order to write to someone, so I was quite relieved when Tina and Anders switched to corresponding by email, with their letters as attachments.

I have a very good friend, the husband of an old friend of mine, and we frequently correspond with each other, and I never think to tell my husband about the content of the emails, because he wouldn't be interested (although he knows we write to each other). This same man also occasionally will send me a postcard and I like that, because handwriting is so personal. Our friendship is entirely platonic, but because of this I fully accepted the correspondence between Tina and Anders becoming established over time.

I enjoyed this book, I don't feel the need for a sequel.

I found the character of Birgitt very interesting, although she was on the periphery of the story, and my question to the author would be - was she based on someone you knew?

Elrel Wed 25-Jul-18 00:31:32

No answers yet? Maybe Anne Youngson is very busy, or on holiday.

GeminiJen Wed 04-Jul-18 11:34:57

Elrel....Thanks for asking about the Rag Man story. Also interested in the answer smile

Elrel Tue 03-Jul-18 22:07:39

Question if not too late - Did Anne Youngson make up the Rag Man story or is it a traditional Danish folk tale? I love it.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 03-Jul-18 09:59:32

Just to say sending the questions over today and will post the answers as soon as we get them

Mollie81 Mon 02-Jul-18 22:34:06

A gentle book, to read slowly. That is why I haven't finished it yet. I like the farming background in contrast to Anders life.

lucyinthesky Sun 01-Jul-18 14:10:12

I agree with loopyloo I also found the voices of the letter writers rather similar and the book took too long to get going for my taste.

Elrel Sun 01-Jul-18 11:14:48

Only half way through and have been dutifully reading as I so appreciate GN Bookclub. I was disappointed not to be more enthusiastic as when my daughter lived in Covent Garden, I often walked to the BM solely to commune with ‘Peat Moss’ and wonder about his life, and death.

I’m now, after page 80, likening the reading experience to a mountain walk. Suddenly a glimpse of Christiania, which has long interested me, then clerodendrum, a plant I didn’t know, beside the path.

Tina’s descriptions of the opera and of the festival in her next letter completely won me over. I am now reading, (and walking!), with renewed energy and true appreciation of Anne Youngson’s skill and her commitment to writing (and pathfinding!).

Must go, read more ...

loopyloo Sat 30-Jun-18 08:01:58

I quite enjoyed this book. However it seemed to me that the two letter writers were a bit too similar in style of writing to be two different people. And also was surprised how easily Tina was able to move to a romantically remote cottage. What was she doing for income? Also she seemed to be able to leave her children very easily.
Found it all a bit implausible.

Valbeasixties Sat 30-Jun-18 07:47:35

I was delighted to receive my copy of Anne Younson's first novel and it is such a beautifully designed book.
I am fascinated by her inspiration for 'Meet me at The Museum' and should like to learn more about the background to her choice of theme which is truly unique and wonderfully quirky.
The letter writing format is very appealing and the development of the relationship between the characters is skillfully unravelled.
However, I did find some of the content of the letters a little unrealistic at times especially as so much personal information seemed to be shared so soon.
I agree with many other reviewers that this novel is complete and needs no sequel. It would indeed be perfect for a screen play.

GeminiJen Tue 26-Jun-18 20:21:45

I found this to be an interesting and unusual novel, gentle and reflective. I came to it straight after finishing a page-turner and found it quite difficult at first to slow down, take my time reading it and allow the content of the letters to sink in. I’m glad I did.
For I loved witnessing the way in which the long distance friendship of Tina and Anders grows and develops, their letters becoming warmer and increasingly personal as they share details of their lives, thoughts and feelings. I loved their slow, thoughtful response to each other’s letters, the little touches of kindness and caring and the way in which their personalities slowly emerge through the beauty of their words and thoughts. There is humour and warmth, joy and happiness but there is also grief, pain, sadness and loneliness - in an empty space or when surrounded by people. I found the recurring motifs of the raspberries unpicked and the fern fronds unfurling particularly evocative, prompting reflection on missed opportunity, second chances and the decisions you make or allow to be made for you.
Like Maggiemaybe, I don’t need a sequel. This seemed like the right place to leave Tina and Anders, where we can each imagine our own preferred future for them. Personally, I like to think that Tina started living her life at long last and found happiness with the lovely Anders smile. I liked the tea cosy snatch too – a lighthearted moment in an otherwise fraught situation grin
My question for the author: I see from the publisher’s note that Meet me at the Museum has been created as part of your PhD. Can you please tell us more?
Thanks flowers

GranEd Sun 24-Jun-18 10:52:11

Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Loved the format.
I’ve taken my time reading it - usually on the bus or in the garden- a couple of letters at a time.
I liked the way the relationship between Tina and Anders progressed and am sure they’ll eventually meet up.
Are any more novels on the horizon- not necessarily a sequel? I’ll certainly be looking out for more.

annep Wed 20-Jun-18 22:00:07

gardenoma I agree with you regarding how they took time to understand and respond to each other even when talking about (to me) mundane or not particularly interesting topics. They listened to each other properly; something we don't always do. It was an interesting book in many ways. And now I have to read further about the Tollund Man!

annep Wed 20-Jun-18 18:08:50

Maggiemay, I liked the tea cosy thing too. Daphne really got up my nose!

annep Wed 20-Jun-18 18:04:25

I enjoyed this book. I didn't love it but it was a pleasant read. The characters were gentle people who talked in a very gentle formal way. Mostly I found the conversation interesting and informative but occasionally I thought the details of life grew a bit boring. I did like the raspberries and ferns though!.
Both Tina and Anders were lonely people in very different ways. Tina had reached a stage in life with which many of us can empathise thinking how life might have been, things we didn't do....., and it did make me think.
I felt sorry for her. I felt from the beginning that she did not have a deep loving relationship with her husband, but like many people of her age had had to settle for less than she wanted. And she had no one to have a meaningful conversation with until Anders.
Anders came across as a very courteous caring man, who had been so patient with his wife and now such a loving father.
One little detail I liked was how they addressed each other and how it progressed to putting "love" in front of the signature and then in Tina's case reverting to just Tina.
I was glad when I found out that Edward was having an affair because it would give Tina the possibility of leaving him and starting again. I was glad she made the decision to leave, although I would have preferred Anders not to give her the advice. I don't think it was his place to do that. Once I read about the affair I couldn't stop until I had finished the book (3am!) Tina is taking her time to make decisions about her future which is wise. I do feel she will visit Anders at the museum. I'm not sure if they will be more than friends. I prefer to leave it there. I don't think a sequel would work. However I do feel it would make a very nice film.

Maggiemaybe Wed 20-Jun-18 12:55:16

Thank you for the opportunity to read this book, not one I would normally have picked up. It took me a while to get into it, but once I did I found it beautifully written, and thoughtful and gentle in its treatment of dull lives lived quietly. I think it is one that I will remember (not least for the raspberries and ferns smile). For me the narrative really picked up when Anders' children were introduced, with evidence at last of some proper family affection. Birgitt senior and the stolid Edward in particular came over to me as self-absorbed and very hard work. Tina’s children, her sons at least, hadn’t fallen far from the tree - I was quite shocked that they both knew about their father’s betrayal of their mother and couldn’t care less. Karin and Erik, on the other hand, were obviously very fond of their father as well as holding their mother’s memory dear.

Someone posted above that they were glad Tina got her come-uppance. I feel completely differently. I’m glad that boring Edward and his sons probably got theirs, having swapped their unappreciated housekeeper for the smug and lazy Daphne. My favourite line of the whole book was Tina swiping the tea-cosy and telling Daph to knit her own!

I don’t need a sequel. I like to think that Tina started living her life at long last and found happiness with the lovely Anders. I could see this book as a film I'd love to watch and would like to ask whether there is anything in the pipeline?

gardenoma Sun 17-Jun-18 09:15:31

very much enjoyed this book and was really impressed by the thoughtful way the character's responses to their own and each others feelings were explored and described.
The letter format works well here, it makes it possible to bring in the element of unknownness, if that is a word, of the other person but also of seeing themselves as the other might see them and so the descriptions of lives unfolding are quite multifacetted.
The words precision and emotion don't normally sit easily together but Anne's previous career explained a lot.
This book will stay with me for a long time I expect and not only because it so resonates with me but because it has made me think..
And that after all the easy stuff I've been reading to help me get to sleep!
Thanks Alygran for passing it on.

fijorisa Sun 17-Jun-18 09:00:56

Many thanks for my copy of the June book. Not yet read it but will do so when I have finished the tome I am presently reading!

annep Sat 16-Jun-18 21:43:19

Yes. it would. I don't belong to one. All our libraries have waiting lists. Perhaps I'll give the U3A another try and suggest it. Looking forward to finishing it on Monday (or during the night!). Too busy tomorrow.

Greenfinch Sat 16-Jun-18 20:20:54

annep this would be a really good topic for a book club meeting, wouldn't it?

annep Sat 16-Jun-18 19:49:37

Greenfinch now I am going to be like Tina and say yes I can understand that viewpoint. Personally speaking I don't think my husband would mind. However I might, no would mind if he did it. I am hoping to discover why she is doing it....... Oh dear, perhaps I may not like what I read!