Review of 'The Museum of Fractured Lives' by Sally Jenkins

Available from Sally Jenkins’ blog.

The inspiration for ‘The Museum of Fractured Lives’  came from the author alighting – purely by chance – on the website of The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb.  (There is a similar museum in Brussels too, by the way.)  In 2011 the Zagreb museum was the winner of the EMF Kenneth Hudson Award for demonstrating the most ‘unusual, daring and, perhaps, controversial achievement that challenges common perceptions of the role of museums in society’.  Now, I want to go myself!

Back to Sally Jenkins’ book, this very short work consists of a prologue, which takes the reader through how the Museum came to be set up, followed by what are, in reality, three short stories told in dialogue to the main character, and then a final chapter entitled ‘Last Word’.  The three short stories (Maxine’s Story, Karen’s Story and Pete’s Story) were well-written, painfully emotional love stories with well-drawn and believable characters, all with tragic endings – obviously.  Ideal for someone who wanted to read one complete short story during a lunch break or a commute.  But, try, instead, to envisage this book as a museum, with a main stand as you enter, explaining the museum’s concept and purpose, three more stands, then a summing-up stand as you walk out.  An interesting idea, well-executed.

Hope your New Year writing is going better than mine.  I’m now looking back on my New Year’s Resolutions in some embarrassment.  As two commenters pointed out, they were a bit ambitious, more of an – extreme – wish list than proper resolutions.  Ouch.  However, what I have read several times over the last few weeks, in writing blogs and in print writing magazines, is how important it is not to write safe, how writers must be prepared to expose themselves by describing raw emotions, even the embarrassing ones, without looking over the shoulder to wonder what hubby/wife, mother, sons and daughters will think.  What made Sally Jenkins’ three short stories so moving was the colour of the emotions she showed us, not just in the main characters but in others as well.

The authors who have written about this have applied this adage particularly to sex scenes, something I’m so useless at I don’t even attempt it.  Often it is difficult for writers to get properly in touch with heightened emotions, especially when we are not feeling that way at the time, or when we are tired.  Not sure what the answer is, unless it is to write down in The Notebook exactly how we feel at the time we’re angry, hurt, depressed or whatever.  Should we reach for The Notebook during sex, perhaps?


5 thoughts on “Review of 'The Museum of Fractured Lives' by Sally Jenkins

  1. FictionFan

    No sex scenes would resolve that particular problem! It’s not that I object on grounds of prudery, simply on grounds of boredom. It’s only in the last few decades that every book has had to have its obligatory sex scene – or several – and I wait with bated breath for someone to tell me what they add except, in most cases, a general sense of ickyness. Now if authors were to start lovingly describing the eating of chocolate cake in all its intimate glory, that would be different…

    ‘…as my tongue gently probed the fudge, every sense was heightened to a state of extreme ecstacy, and in the distance I heard waves crashing on a shore…’


  2. Patsy

    Grabbing a notebook during sex would probably result in more broken relationships for the museum! Maybe you’d better rely on memory and imagination?


  3. Sally Jenkins

    Reblogged this on Sally Jenkins and commented:
    I wanted to share this timely review of ‘Museum’ by Charlie Britten. It’s wonderful how bloggers, writers & readers all support each other. Thanks Charlie! The Museum e-book is only 99p until Sunday 8th Feb.



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