Thursday 2 October 2014

Review ~ The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman.

Title: The Memory Book.
Author: Rowan Coleman.
Publisher: Ebury.
Genre: Women's Fiction.
Publication Date: January 30, 2014.
Source: Bought.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

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…?

I bought The Memory Book after several recommendations from my fellow bloggers, but was warned it was possibly the wrong time to read it given my mum had just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. So it was on a particularly brave day a few weeks after my mum passed away that I chose to read this book and really, I think I read the perfect book at the perfect time. It’s an emotional story but not grim at all. It has its moments of sadness, but those moments are effectively combined with humour and other moments which make you smile. This book truly had it all. Rowan’s writing was insanely moving and powerful and The Memory Book was stunning and inspiring in a way that my words can’t even begin to express.

I was completely moved by Rowan’s wonderful portrayal of the love shared between Claire, who has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and the people who make up her family – mum Ruth, daughters Caitlin and Esther and husband Greg. Each of their individual relationships were impacted in a way which was out of their hands to control, but each of those relationships were also wonderful and fascinating to read. It seems to me that it’s impossible to not fall for every one of these characters and just want the best turn out possible, regardless of how likely or unlikely that may be. Claire and Caitlin were the main characters here though the others were well represented and developed too. Their mother-daughter bond was affecting to read and felt very real and believable. Claire was strong-willed, with a great sense of humour and a lot of fight in her. She was not willing to lie down and be beaten – or let her loved ones do the same – and she was an inspirational character. I also adored her relationship with her youngest daughter Esther, and their moments of mischief and fun really brought life to this book. Caitlin was the character I could connect with the most – how her life was impacted on by the worsening health of her mum but also her journey of self-discovery and finding herself. Greg and Ruth also had important parts to play in The Memory Book and Rowan’s character development is some of the best I’ve ever read.

I loved the entries into the memory book. They added uplifting touches to the poignant story of a family being threatened to be torn apart by Alzheimer’s. It was refreshing to see the memories the family valued, and their different takes on all the stages in their lives. It was ultimately positive, because regardless of how difficult, how upsetting things got for them all, they had their memories that would always be there to look back on and smile at, which was something I felt like I could connect and identify with. Rowan combined these with the present day story beautifully and this book also touched on looking to the future – it was about choosing to live rather than letting life pass you by and this was motivating and written wonderfully.

It’s rare to find a book that can hold a real impact over the way you see things in reality but I found The Memory Book to be a really empowering read and one that has stayed with me and helped me to embrace a little bit of positivity. I can’t deny that it did move me to tears as well, but in the incredible way Rowan wrote this, it was not an overly upsetting book – more life-affirming, and simply perfect. It made me miss my mum even more, if that’s possible, and yet feel a little bit stronger and that’s what tells me five stars and all the words I can come up won’t ever come close to doing this special book justice. But it does make The Memory Book one of the most heart-warming and one of the absolute best books I’ve ever read – one which will stay with me for a long time and my last mention has to go to the brilliant, clever ending that ensured this book finished in the same stunning fashion Rowan delivered the whole way through.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

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