The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm in love! With a new author - how can I not fall head over heels for someone who can move me as deeply as this with her words? She has reached so deeply inside me to touch my very soul with this stunning book.
Told from the unusual perspective of a woman with early onset alzheimers, it is poignant, sensitive, funny and harrowing all at once. Told in the voice of Claire, teacher, mother to 2 fabulous daughters, grown up Caitlin and 3 year old Esther, and daughter to Ruth. As Claires mind slips from lucidity to confusion, we take the journey with her as she begins to forget people and places, names of things and even how to do simple tasks, the plughole becomes the hole in the kitchen and carrots are now orange things, but the worst omission of memory must be that she has forgotten her husband Greg, her memories of their deep love and devotion are just gone and she can hardly bear to live with the stranger he has now become to her.
To help her hold on to the remaining memories of her life Greg brings her a gift of a beautifully bound journal - the eponymous Memory book in which Claire begins to record her memories whilst she can put them into words and she adds tokens and souvenirs from past and present events and this is how the memory book takes shape and we get to know her and her family intimately.
The fact that she manages to retain her sense of humour lifts the book from the morbid story it could be, to a joyful celebration of life and love and inevitably its a story about motherhood as it explores and exposes the cracks and glue which bind mother to daughter through everything, her relationship with her own mother, and her two daughters is perfectly real and deftly painted with the light touch of a feather and the intricacy of the richest tapestry. It brought back such poignant memories for me of my own Mother, who died over 30 years ago, that I broke my heart sobbing myself to sleep several times during this book, yes its sad but its also intensely uplifting and even joyful.
I don't know if what Claire is going though is exactly what it feels like to be losing one's memory - I doubt anyone truly can as anyone who has gone through it enough to be able to tell us what it feels like won't be able to remember enough about the process to share it with us! But Rowan Coleman truly makes us believe that this is exactly how it must feel and has written a truly epic novel that will remain in my memory for years after I have forgotten how to use my front door key and how to put on my shoes!
This is undoubtedly a book which will feature in my top books of 2014, it ranks so highly I want to give it 10 out of 5 and I want EVERYONE to read it. If you only read one book this year, let it be this one, its sensational and I loved every word.
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