I’ll start with a disclaimer. I’ve had this book on my Kindle for a while and the copy I read may NOT be the most up-to-date version. There were some editing and punctuation issues which I hope have been rectified in later editions.
This is a great idea, imaginative and wistful. When she was a child, Betty Brown was given the dubious gift of a whiskey bottle by her grandfather, in order to put money in every time she did something she regretted. It seems her life has been full of regrets since then, from the trivial to the serious, and she seems to have spent most of her time dwelling on them and thinking of the “what ifs.”
I would have liked to get to know her better as she always seemed to be held at arm’s length. As the plot became more complex, there were times I lost track of her and had to double back on some occasions to find out what I had missed. Cosima, the other character in the novel, was the same. She still felt like a stranger at the end of the book.
I know some reviewers have said this book is easy to read, but I didn’t find it so. It was a high-concept novel which people will either grasp immediately and run with, or like me, stumble and fall. This story has the power to be extraordinary but I feel it needs nurturing a little more to reach its potential.
Give it a chance though, because you may well read it and think differently. As reviewers we can only offer our opinions and in the end, everyone needs to form their own.
How many regrets is too many?
Betty Brown had not given a moments thought to the Museum of Perfect Scenes for years. Seven years ago to be precise. That was until one day her mind wonders back to the place whilst standing in the middle of The Nowhere Else Shop; the art and crafts shop where she works with her friend Melissa. It is here that she daydreams of events of the past.
This is a dangerous zone for Betty as she has a reputation of being a collector of mistakes. She has held this title ever-since her Grandfather Jack left her a vintage whiskey bottle in his will after his passing. He taught her exactly how to save days of regret. For every mistake she makes, Betty must add a coin to the bottle. Now twenty years later the bottle is almost full and Betty has far too many mistakes that she cannot remember them all. That is when the memories of The Museum of Perfect Scenes come flooding back and she can no longer tell what is real in her life.
Cosima Blue is also sent to The Museum of Perfect Scenes by her Master Mr Elliot after one of her weekly sessions with him. At first, she is unsure of the place but once inside she finds immense pleasure and power by visiting the exhibition. 125 doors unveil 125 moments frozen in time; from a person’s life that they either feel their life can no longer move forward or they have achieved greatness that they never want to risk going backwards. So each person donates their life at that point to the Museum and their life outside disappears.
Mr Elliot hopes that the exhibition will give Cosima confidence and gives her a deadline of only a few months to get her life back on track. At the end of June Mr Elliot no longer wants to meet with Cosima and tells her “You must be ready”. But ready for what? Cosima does not know. Which is why Mr Elliot presents her with a room of her own that presents her life in three different versions. But will she donate her life to the Museum or accept one of her fates?
Betty has the same decision to make with her life in order for it to progress further and to not make any more donations to the whiskey bottle. This includes at work and with her neighbour Ted who she desperately wants to get to know more. All she needs to do; is to say yes.