The name of your first-born. The face of your lover. Your age. Your address…
What would happen if your memory of these began to fade? Is it possible to rebuild your life? Raise a family? Fall in love again?
When Claire starts to write her Memory Book, she already knows that this scrapbook of mementoes will soon be all her daughters and husband have of her. But how can she hold on to the past when her future is slipping through her fingers…?
Claire is a happily married mother of two beautiful girls. She has a good job as a teacher, has found true love with her husband Greg and finally, in her forties, feels like her life is on the right track. However, Claire’s life comes crashing down when she inherits a faulty gene from her father and develops early onset Alzheimer’s.
Her condition deteriorates much sooner than anyone thought possible and she finds large chunks of her life slipping away from her as she begins to no longer recognise her husband, forgets her daughters’ names and virtually becomes a prisoner in her own home as she is no longer able to venture outside safely without someone to take care of her.
Claire’s counsellor suggests that Claire create a ‘Memory Book’ where she writes down all of the things that she does remember, and encourages Claire’s family to do the same, making a permanent record of all of the good times that they have shared together. And so the Memory Book is born and through its heartfelt, very personal entries, we learn about Claire’s past, present and her hopes for the future, that of her own and for her family. We also get to understand the emotional pain and difficulty endured by those closest to her, as they reminisce over some of their happiest times and take us on the ride of their potentially turbulent futures…
I have heard so much about The Memory Book, and I can’t believe that I have only just got round to reading it. I love Rowan Coleman and the other books of hers that I’ve read have been fantastic, so I was expecting to enjoy The Memory Book…but OH MY GOODNESS, I never expected to be as astounded by the story as I was. It was truly superb.
Claire and Caitlin are the main narrators of the novel, and Rowan conveys how this terrible disease affects everyone through their stories amazingly well. We also get to hear snippets from Claire’s mum, Ruth, and Greg too and your heart will break for them both in different ways. Ruth because this is the second member of her family she has lost to the disease and Greg because his wife no longer knows who he is. I mean, can you imagine?
Then there’s Caitlin, still at University, yet she senses the responsibility that will fall onto her when her mother is no longer there and to top it all off she has a rather big problem of her own. The kind of problem that she needs to talk through with her mum, except her mum is no longer her mum. Whilst there are extremely sad, tender, darker moments, The Memory Book is in no way a depressing, gloomy story. Rowan instead makes the importance of family, love and acceptance shine through, rather than focusing on the downside of the situation. I imagine this must be such a difficult balance to achieve as a writer; conveying the disease, the grief and the hurt, whilst also bringing light, humour and love to the story. However Rowan does it perfectly and my admiration for her writing has just gone SKY HIGH.
I loved Claire’s youngest daughter, Esther and the vital role she played in this story. She was a ray of sunshine and she turns out to be an unlikely ally for her mother in the later stages of the disease. Claire’s story is simply amazing. Looking back at her life you can see that she has always followed her heart and lived life to the full, something which she continues to do right until the very end. She is a character who I hugely admire; she is brave, unbelievably determined and so, so courageous. She isn’t afraid to continue to be herself and never lets the disease diminish her personality.
The other thing that I found so utterly brilliant about The Memory Book was the ending. When I started this book I assumed I would need a huge box of Kleenex, especially at the end, but that’s not the way that the story pans out at all. I was pleasantly surprised by the moment in time that the story leaves us at and I find myself sat here wondering about Claire, her family and her story even now, and I know that I will be for a very long time to come.
The Memory Book deserves all of praise that it’s receiving plus much, much more. I’m delighted that it’s been chosen as one of Richard and Judy’s Autumn Book Club reads for 2014, because then hopefully even more people will discover Rowan Coleman and what an outstanding author she is.
This book is not only one of my favourites of 2014 but it’s a book that has made me realise exactly why I love reading so much.
Rowan Coleman worked in bookselling and publishing for seven years before winning Company Magazine Young Writer of the Year in 2001. Her first novel GROWING UP TWICE was published in 2002 and was a WHS Fresh Talent winner. Since then Rowan has written ten novels for women including THE ACCIDENTAL MOTHER, THE BABY GROUP, and DEAREST ROSE, which won The Festival of Romance Best Romantic Read 2012, The RoNA Epic Romance novel of 2013 and was shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year 2013 and is the book that inspired Rowan to release WOMAN WALKS INTO A BAR as an ebook (published 10th September 2013) with 100% of her royalties going to Refuge. Rowan now lives in Hertfordshire with her husband, and large family of four children, including surprise toddler twins. Rowan is often quite tired.