BookBrowse Reviews The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Souvenir Museum

by Elizabeth McCracken

The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken X
The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2021, 256 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2022, 384 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Daniela Schofield
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A clever and touching collection of stories for any reader who has ever loved.

Elizabeth McCracken's book The Souvenir Museum is composed of 12 short stories populated by otherwise unremarkable characters who are made intriguing through an engaging and intimate narration of moments in their everyday lives.

The book opens and closes with stories that feature weddings. Marriage, parenting, childhood and family relationships run throughout the collection, with tensions and incongruities between family members, as well as their disappointments in one another, featuring frequently. Familial relationships are linked with travel; as McCracken's characters are rarely content in a single location, they are often in transit or associated with multiple places, as is captured in this passage of the story "Mistress Mickle All at Sea":

Expatriation was the family disease, hereditary: thanks to an immigrant ancestor, they all had Irish passports. The world was their oyster. An oyster was not enough to sustain anyone.

There are some recurring characters across stories, which gives the collection a sense of consistency. Encountering them in different locations and at different ages results in a greater degree of development than could be achieved in a single short story, but this is done in a way that still allows each piece to read as a self-contained standalone. The chief recurring character, Jack, is the American-born son of English parents, "a sort of Englishman, sort of American." The collection opens with Jack bringing his American girlfriend, Sadie, to a family wedding in Ireland. Both Sadie and Jack crop up throughout the book, every time in a new stage of their lives, and their relationship serves as a continuing backdrop for McCracken's recurring themes of love, family, loss and longing.

In "The Get-Go," we are told that "[a]ll his life Jack had felt like an interloper." This sense of not belonging suits the transatlantic settings and aesthetic that underpin the collection; stories take place across the British Isles, Denmark, the United States and the Netherlands. Just as there is overlap between characters, the influence of disparate locations is woven together magnificently, in a tone that can be British in its self-effacing wryness while simultaneously American in its self-determination. Geographies and experiences blend with a sense of buoyancy that links to the collection's water imagery; oceans, canals, islands and boats feature heavily.

Just as enjoyable as the subject matter of the stories is the artful way in which McCracken has constructed each. The narratives move quickly, ensuring the transition between plots is smooth. Every story completes a satisfying arc that frequently includes an unexpected turn or surprise, and readers may find it only becomes apparent at the end that the author has packed in quite a lot of detail and action. McCracken truly shines in her use of dialogue and sumptuous prose, as in her description of one character with "a beef bourguignon voice."

The Souvenir Museum is a skillful and understated presentation of the emotional complexities in everyday life and relationships. With this collection, McCracken transforms mundane experiences into compelling, enthralling stories in a beautiful style that will delight readers.

Reviewed by Daniela Schofield

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in April 2021, and has been updated for the February 2022 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 12 months or $12 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Challah

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Atomic Anna
    Atomic Anna
    by Rachel Barenbaum
    If you had the opportunity to prevent one of the world's most horrific disasters, would you? What if...
  • Book Jacket: The Colony
    The Colony
    by Audrey Magee
    The Colony opens with Mr Lloyd, a London artist, being transported to a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) ...
  • Book Jacket: The Return of Faraz Ali
    The Return of Faraz Ali
    by Aamina Ahmad
    In Aamina Ahmad's debut, The Return of Faraz Ali, the eponymous character is a police inspector in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Wonders
    The Wonders
    by Elena Medel
    Spanish poet Elena Medel's debut novel The Wonders (translated by Lizzie Davis and Thomas Bunstead) ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Shadows of Berlin
by David R. Gillham
A captivating novel of a Berlin girl on the run from the guilt of her past and the boy from Brooklyn who loves her.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Metropolis
    by B. A. Shapiro

    "An ingeniously plotted hybrid social/suspense novel. Shapiro hits it out of the park."
    Shelf Awareness

  • Book Jacket

    Fly Girl
    by Ann Hood

    "Sheer pleasure. A hilarious and often moving look back at...a young woman's coming of age."
    —Dennis Lehane

Who Said...

There is no worse robber than a bad book.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T S's T Limit

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.