The Book of Memory

The Book of Memory

Book - 2016
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The story that you have asked me to tell you does not begin with the pitiful ugliness of Lloyd's death. It begins on a long-ago day in August when the sun seared my blistered face and I was nine years old and my father and mother sold me to a strange man.

Memory, the narrator of Petina Gappah's The Book of Memory , is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, after being sentenced for murder. As part of her appeal, her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was LloydHendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?

Moving between the townships of the poor and the suburbs of the rich, and between past and present, the 2009 Guardian First Book Award-winning writer Petina Gappah weaves a compelling tale of love, obsession, the relentlessness of fate, and the treachery of memory.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016
Edition: First American edition
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780865479074
Characteristics: 276 pages ; 22 cm


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Apr 30, 2019

I really enjoyed reading The Book of Memory. The non-linear story, the progressive revelation of what happened to the narrator, the fact that some events/people turned out to be not quite what/who she thought they were, the cultural discovery… It all made for a very enjoyable reading experience.

Feb 22, 2017

This book, with its title character Memory, inspires a thought-provoking look into Zimbabwean history and its culture. The glimpses into Zimbabwean culture invoked wonderful memories of the Zimbabwe that was (Southern Rhodesia), and the struggle the country has gone through to find itself as an independent country. This broader perspective is masterfully wound into the more personal tale of the woman, impacted by the prejudice of her skin tone, who is wrongfully accused of killing her white foster father. The author brilliantly weaves the unfolding story of the birth of a new country with the unfolding memories (some erronious, as it turns out) of one woman. Memory's memories are ultimately a social commentary that should stand next to the social commentary of authors such as Achebe and Doris Lessing.

There were many moments of great humour to be found in the book, many came from the Shona interweaved into the English narrative, and awakened memories of childhood that had been long forgotten.

Nov 30, 2016

loved this story

Sep 25, 2016

I thought this story was thought provoking and slowly unraveled. I enjoyed the feeling as if I was also trying to take a straight course through her life and failing along with her. Because, and as she explains, sometimes remembering is not always a straight line.

Jun 28, 2016

This novel has all the elements for a great story - set in a prison, a woman falsely accused, discrimination against albinos and indeed all difference, the politics of Zimbabwe. As well, it is a book of memory and written in a way which mirrors how memory works. However, the book did not succeed. It used suspense, but presented the background information in a very crowded few chapters; and there was little character development. It is as if the author could not decide which path she was following.

Apr 08, 2016

The Book of Memory is narrated by Memory herself. As the story opens, Memory is imprisoned in a maximum security prison in Harare, Zimbabwe. She has been charged with murder and awaits the possibility of the death penalty. An American journalist , as well as her lawyer , encourage Memory to write down her life story to better her chances of having her prison sentence reduced.

Memory is an albino woman of black parentage which creates difficulties for her from birth. Initially she lives with her family in an impoverished township with her very troubled mother and caring father. At the age of nine, Memory recalls being sold off by her parents to a well off white man, Lloyd Hendricks. This is also the man she is later accused of murdering.

The story is told in a non- linear fashion , as Memory recalls her life story from prison. The story is a very personal tale , and on a lesser level serves as a social and political commentary on life in Zimbabwe . There are plenty of fascinating glimpses into Zimbabwen culture and mythology. Life in prison also figures prominently.

At times I found the non- linear story as well as the numerous characters to be a bit challenging to follow. Overall I found this to be a fascinating story and a very worthwhile read. It is a dark read, very vivid in detail but always leavened with Memory's acerbic wit. 5 stars


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