Anne Youngson’s Meet Me at the Museum focuses on second chances in life and love, but shifting gears into this slow-paced epistolary novel fired up my unexpected interest in anthropology and had me looking for more information. The Tollund man, a perfectly preserved prehistoric man found in the Danish bog, now on display at the Silkeborge Museum in Denmark, is the motivation behind a chain of letters between an unhappy older woman dissatisfied with her life on the farm, and a lonely museum curator who has recently lost his wife. Tina Hopgood initiates the letters with an inquiry about the Tollund man, and Anders Larson, the museum curator responds, with a short lecture on the exhibit and an invitation to visit.
After 40 years as a farm wife, Tina is regretting she never visited the museum but also wonders about other options in her life she never had the chance to consider. Recently widowed Anders works at Denmark’s Silkeborge Museum, which houses Tollund Man, and is finding himself unable to move on after the death of his wife. Gradually, over eighteen months of writing, their salutations progress from “Dear Mrs. Hopgood” and “Best Wishes” to “My dear Tina” and finally to “All my love.”
As the letters become more personal, they disclose their struggles and give each other advice. Both have grown daughters who are about to make major changes in their lives, and both are wondering if their lives have had any meaning. Throughout the story, Youngson interjects long descriptions of farm life from Tina and details of the Tollund Man from Anders. Tina’s letters are filled with the monotony of tending chickens and slaughtering pigs. She describes picking raspberries, noting that no matter how careful she is, she always finds some she’s missed, comparing her life to a missed row of raspberries. As their letters eventually merge into philosophical observations from both correspondents and the realization of their new-found connection, raspberries become their private reference for second chances, with Anders noting “I feel I have overlooked far too many of the fruits in this life I have.”
“Our letters have meant so much to us because we have both arrived at the same point in our lives. More behind us than ahead of us…Please do not be angry with the circumstances of your life … nothing is so fixed it cannot be altered.”
Youngson may be her own inspiration for the story. As an Oxfordshire farm wife who always wanted to write a novel, she finally did write this debut novel in her sixties, and is now pursuing a Ph.D. It’s never too late.
As for Tallund Man, here’s what I discovered – click here for more information
Other Epistolary Novels I’ve Enjoyed:
- Daddy Long Legs
- 84 Charing Place
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
- The Divorce Papers
- Dear Committee Members