Through ten decades and across three continents, The Ash Museum is an intergenerational story of loss, migration and the search for somewhere to feel at home.
1944. The Battle of Kohima. James Ash dies leaving behind two families: his ‘wife’ Josmi and two children, Jay and Molly, and his parents and sister in England who know nothing about his Indian family.
2012. Emmie is raising her own daughter, Jasmine, in a world she wants to be very different from the racist England of her childhood. Her father, Jay, doesn’t even have a photograph of the mother he lost and still refuses to discuss his life in India. Emmie finds comfort in the local museum – a treasure trove of another family’s stories and artefacts.
Little does Emmie know that with each generation, her own story holds secrets and fascinations that she could only dream of.
|Publisher: Legend Press|
|Format: Ebook, Audio, Paperback (3 May 2021)|
|Page Count: 364|
|Source: Review copy|
My thanks to Lucy of Legend Press for the invitation to take part in the tour and for providing the review copy. Besides having the most gorgeous cover, the blurb of this appealed to me straight away and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed at all. It really is an all encompassing story of families, multi generational culture and trying to find that place in life where you fit in.
Beginning in 1944 and spanning the decades to 2012, the Ash family story really begins with Captain James Ash, the manager of a tea plantation in India being killed in battle. Unbeknown to his family in England he had fathered two children Jay and Molly with a young Indian tea picker/housekeeper however in keeping with those times and culture, she had been given no legal status and no recognition.
This absorbing and at times heartrending story follows the generations of the Ash family from Canada to England, with particular focus on James’s son Jay and later his daughter Emmie – from her childhood through to adulthood and to raising her own daughter Jassie. The potted life stories of the characters tells of their life as a mixed race family, how they faced prejudice with both implied and overt racism whilst trying to settle in a predominantly white society and how they fared over the years. Jay was a very quiet unassuming character with a deep love of his family but he closed the book on his childhood in India. Emmie had some difficult times, especially at school – I cheered her on when she eventually cracked and dealt with her nemesis, the school bully. There was much of the story that was moving but it was also humorous too with some fabulous characters – Emmie and Jay of course but also the kind but no-nonsense Aunt Margaret was a brilliant foil to her companion, the more gentle Lucinda. As well as being a story of family life its a wonderful commentary of our times – there were many memories and mentions of items and popular culture from the 1970’s and 80’s that brought back memories for me.
The chapters do sometimes jump around in timelines/decades as it features the story of a family member, but I didn’t find it confusing at all and it was easy to follow. The chapters are each headed as if they were a museum artefact exhibit but each heading is relevant to the chapter and the content.
I was totally enthralled by this story. It’s beautifully written with authentic characters with a thoughtful and unusual layout. Definitely recommended.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rebecca Smith was born in London and grew up in rural Surrey. From 2009 – 2010 she was the writer in residence at Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, Hampshire. The Ash Museum was inspired by her time there and by being left hundreds of old family photographs and letters.