Daisy is the night security guard at the Manchester Museum of Social History. She takes her job very seriously, protecting the museum from troublemakers and anyone who openly mocks the fact they have a dinosaur on display.
Nate works the day shift, though he’d be more suited as a museum guide the way he chats with the visitors. Daisy doesn’t approve: every one of them is a potential threat and befriending them could impair his judgement.
Daisy and Nate don’t have much to do with each other except for the five minutes when they’re shifts overlap at handover. He passes the torch over to her – like a baton – always with a smirk on his face, and she asks him for a full report of the day, which he gives reluctantly. It’s the only interaction they have… until strange things begin to happen at the museum.
Daisy notices priceless objects are going missing but then reappearing, with no explanation (and nothing showing on the CCTV, which is why she doesn’t trust technology). No one believes her except Nate, and he agrees to help her solve the mystery.
They soon discover they have a lot more in common than they realised… and their investigations uncover more than just the truth. Could they have feelings for one another?
“WE’RE ALL BROKEN, DAISY. IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. SHOW ME SOMEBODY WHO LIFE HASN’T BROKEN IN SOME WAY. LIFE KICKS LUMPS OFF THE MOMENT WE’RE BORN, UNLESS WE’RE VERY LUCKY, OR VERY RICH. AND MOST OF THE TIME, NOT EVEN THAT CAN HELP. YOU’RE BROKEN, DAISY. SO AM I. SO, PROBABLY, IS JANICE, AND SEEMA, AND DOROTHY. YOUR SISTER. YOUR MOTHER, DEFINITELY. I’M SURE.”
While this was definitely not the fluffy, light-hearted romance that I thought it was going to be, The Handover was such a pleasant surprise.
Multiple POV books can be a real hit-and-miss for me, but Barnett did a great job of delicately balancing between these two characters who lives typically overlap for just five minutes a day. Yet, in those five minutes, Barnett manages to carve out a blossoming friendship and budding relationship as Daisy and Nate bond over the mysterious antics in the museum and their shared hardships.
Truthfully, there’s very little action in The Handover – but that’s the beauty of it! It’s a really subtle, grounded story whose impact slowly sneaks up on you. At times, it’s a heavy read. Barnett weaves in themes such as bullying, family trauma, aging, dementia, divorce and grief and explores each of these to the full. Daisy, Nate and the cast of colourful characters around them all feel very real and believable which is no easy feat in a rom-com.
The Handover is beautiful, poignant and full of nuggets of inspiration. It’s a slow, steady and addictive read. If I had to critique it, the only thing I would change is the relationship between Daisy and Nate. It was a tad underdeveloped and felt, at times, very rushed. In a book that really takes it time navigating a lot of complex and difficult topics, the pacing of their romantic relationship didn’t feel natural. Instead of hurriedly trying to establish a relationship in the latter pages of the novel, it would have been better if Barnett had left them as friends with the potential for there to be more.
If you’re not a diehard rom-com fan but still want to enjoy a cosy novel with real characters then I highly recommend The Handover. The best way to describe it is Eleanor Oliphant meets Night at the Museum but with ten times more heart!