The Memory is one of those books that stays with you for days after you finish reading. Written in first person, the reader suffers with Irene as she struggles to deal with her mother’s dementia and the memories of the past that encroach on their relationship. It is a compelling reading. At times it is so real, so raw, that it feels almost autobiographical. The scenes where she struggles to deal with her mother’s illness and her own exhaustion are poignant as they reflect the true lives of many people caring for elderly relatives.
Irene’s love for her little sister, Rose, a Down’s syndrome baby, is central to the story and casts a shadow over events. Rose was rejected by their mother, but an important part of Irene’s life when she was growing up. Her death, thirty years previously, was shrouded in suspicion and one of the causes of the rift between Irene and her mother.
The structure of the story weaves naturally between the present day and the past. We are given an insight into life in the 1960s, Irene’s growing relationship with Sam, her patient and loving husband, and her teaching career.
At times there was the temptation to rush through to find out what happens to Irene, but this is a story best savoured and enjoyed. The ending is heart-wrenching, so be prepared with the tissues. A moving story of love and forgiveness.
The Memory by Judith Barrow is published by Honno. She has four other novels also available from Honno and one self-published on Amazon. Buy now from your local bookshop.