Sunday, 23 February 2014
Book Review: The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman
As a mum to three girls I was immediately drawn to The Memory Book when I saw it was a book about the relationships between mothers and daughters. It focuses on three generations of women, Claire who has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease, her daughter, Caitlin who has to make her own life-changing decisions whilst watching her mum deteriorate rapidly, and her mother, Ruth who lost her husband to Alzheimer's and now faces the loss of her only daughter. So emotional stuff then and it would be foolish of me to deny that it made me cry several times. However, this is not in any way a depressing read, despite the sombre subject matter it is a warm, often funny and always touching look at a family learning to deal with the massive changes they are facing. Claire is the main narrator of the story and we see her fear and frustration as she slowly loses who she is. This is sensitively and believably handled, particularly in the scenes where her memory loss is apparent. The Memory Book of the title refers to a book Claire is filling in with memories of her past, her teenage pregnancy, years as a single mum, her love affair and subsequent marriage to Greg, the birth of her second daughter, Esther (who is a thoroughly real small girl with all the charm, humour and tyranny they possess) and always her relationship with Caitlin and Ruth. Caitlin, Ruth and Greg also add their memories to the book and so we see what they're going through watching the gradual loss of such a significant person in all their lives as some chapters are narrated in their voices, something that works very well and creates a fully rounded family whose plight is easy to identify with. I sympathised with them, of course but the writing is such that I didn't ever pity them.
I lost my own mum to breast cancer when I was 22 and so have always been a motherless mother to my own three girls although have been fortunate to have a wonderful mother-in-law. I miss my mum every day but still feel blessed that I learned how to be a mum from her. The Memory Book really touched me, it's a truly lovely reminder of the relationship between mothers and daughters. I thoroughly recommend it. Many thanks to the author and publishers for my copy from Netgalley in return for my honest review.
The Memory Book is published in the UK by Ebury.