TOPICS & QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Consider the book title, The Museum of Forgotten Memories. What “forgotten memories” do you think the title is referring to? Do you think the title refers to the people attached to the museum and the wider family, or the exhibits inside that have been removed from their original settings?
2. Cate reminisces about the first time she met—and fell in love with—Richard: “I knew straightaway. I knew before he sat down, before he spoke. . . . Rich put his hand out and shook mine. I looked into his eyes and knew that he felt exactly the same way” (page 8). Do you believe in love at first sight? How might it be different from love that takes time to develop? Discuss the different types of love and relationships in this novel.
3. As Cate and Leo arrive in their car to the museum for the first time, Cate accidentally hits a fox running across the road. What does this accidental loss symbolize or foreshadow within the context of the novel? How does it come full circle by the last chapter?
4. The first time Cate sees the museum’s collection, she is startled by how “barbaric” it is (page 49). Araminta, however, feels differently, explaining that the original goal of the museum was to bring animals and artifacts to people who otherwise would never see them. Do you think that Colonel Hugo’s goal, and his decision to create elaborate taxidermy exhibits, was just? What do you think modern conservationists would say about the museum? Can museums like this still be relevant today?
5. Curtis quickly becomes one of Leo’s best friends, in spite of their differences. What do you think draws Curtis and Leo together, and why does it take Cate so long to trust Curtis? Is it ever fair to judge someone by a first impression? Why or why not?
6. Consider the opening lines of the novel: “A house absorbs happiness; it blooms into the wallpaper, the wood of the window frames, the bricks: that’s how it becomes a home” (page 1). When Cate and Leo first come to Hatters, it’s anything but; as Cate dryly remarks, their rooms are “like something you’d expect to find if you took an academic residency in the oldest university in the country, or the matron’s job at an expensive but ancient private school” (page 22). At what point in the novel does Hatters become a home to Cate and Leo? Was there a particular moment that finally made it so, or was it more gradual? Compare your thoughts with those of your book club members. You may be surprised by the answers!
7. Although Richard clearly suffered from mental illness, the author never specifies what his illness was, or how, exactly, he died. Why do you think she purposefully chose to make this vague? How would knowing Richard’s diagnosis or the manner of his death have changed your impression of the novel, if at all?
8. The Greek myth of Atalanta and Hippomenes—and the statues of them in the Hatters garden—plays a very important role in this novel. Do you think these mythological figures are symbolic of two characters in the book? If yes, who and why? If no, what else might they represent?
9. Cate blames herself and Simon, in part, for Richard’s death. Do you think this blame is fair? How has his death affected her in terms of being able to move on with her life? Why else might her grief be so fresh, even four years after his death? Discuss with your book club.
10. Cate has romantic attachments to three men in the novel: Richard, Simon, and Patch. How are all of these relationships similar? How are they different?
11. Araminta blames Cate for the attack on the museum. Do you think that this is justified? How do you view this blame in light of the big secret that Araminta later shares? Why does Araminta feel so responsible to the museum and to Colonel Hugo, even after she’s been forced to keep secrets for all these years?
12. When Cate arrives back to the museum after the fire, she remarks in wonder, “Leo pulled me through that smoke. Leo saved my life” (page 198). In what other ways has Leo “saved” Cate?
13. The fire, despite the external damage it causes, is cleansing for Cate. Why do you think it—and the hallucinations she has about the animals and Richard—leads her to feel that this has “scorched away the paralyses; the immobility of grief . . . given me new life” (page 202)?
14. “I don’t miss Patch like I miss Simon. I can’t miss someone who never really existed, whose character was merely one more of his beautiful creations, a veil that he had invented, painted with all the shades I thought I needed” (page 307). Was Patch’s betrayal a surprise to you? Do you think he ever really loved Cate? Why or why not?
15. A major theme of this novel is duty—Araminta’s duty to the museum; Cate’s duty to care for Leo; Colonel Hugo’s duty to protect his family’s secret. In what other ways is duty a theme of this novel? Have the characters carried out their duties by the novel’s end?