Rowan Coleman is one of my favourite authors (if you want to read why please see my review of Dearest Rose a.k.a. The Runaway Wife), so I was giddy to receive her latest novel The Memory Book for review.
The cover alone is enticing, warm and beautiful and features some glowing quotes from several popular authors, it couldn’t be anything but good could it? But what’s it all about? Here is the synopsis:
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? (Synopsis courtesy of Rowan Coleman's website.)
Whilst Claire is the central focus of this novel as someone facing early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) the book is about the whole family (her husband Greg, her mother Ruth and her daughters Caitlin and Esther). In particular this is a book about motherhood, exploring both Claire and her mother’s relationship (which I thought was a very realistic account of what many mother/daughter relationships are like) and Claire and her eldest daughter Caitlin’s relationship, both historically and how the disease threatens to change these relationships. Throughout the novel the present challenges facing the family are interspersed with different family members reflecting on the past through items and memories they detail in Claire’s ‘memory book,’ each memory adding further depth to each character and the relationships between the different family members.
There seems to have been more and more focus on dementia in the past couple of years, definitely in the research world which I work in anyway, and I myself became a ‘dementia friend’ last year and so it seems a very relevant and worthy disease to cover, and I’m so pleased Rowan has brought this subject to a new audience through fiction. I cannot imagine how tricky it must have been to get the character of Claire and the disease she is facing ‘right’, but it definitely felt ‘right’ to me; I felt Claire’s fear and frustration along with her. I also welcomed the fact that the book explores someone facing this disease at a younger age than we might automatically think of.
This book made me go through so many emotions including sadness, frustration, and fear. Despite the central topic, it’s an extremely warm and uplifting book at the same time with funny moments and beautiful love stories involved.
This book had me hooked from the first few pages alone and it’s one of those books where you want to sneak off and put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door so you can just spend time alone with Claire and her family and share their emotions with them. Claire wasn’t ready to be consumed by the ‘fog’ of the disease, I wasn’t ready for this book to end, I know I will think about these characters for a long time to come.
I genuinely think this book will sit within my favourite books of all time and it’s a book that I look forward to reading again one day. I hope I get to see this at the cinema one day, I can so see this as a film too! I’ve been inspired to create my own memory book and I’m looking forward to meeting Rowan in person at a literature event this month. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Thanks to Ebury Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.
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