The Memory of Love
This is the first book I’ve read from the newly created Shelf of Doom. And despite it’s slow start, I’m pretty happy with it.
(Except for that ending…holy crap people! The ending!!)
(And the fact that it takes a good long while before you understand that you’re in Sierra Leone…unless you just happen to read the book description.)
(And the ending. Have I mentioned the ending?!?)
So what we’ve got is a cast of intertwined characters and a reader who doesn’t really begin to understand just exactly how they’re all intertwined until about 2/3 of the way through the book.
- Adrian is an English psychologist who has come to Sierra Leone to help out as best he can. He also falls for the mysterious Mamakay.
- Kai is young doctor who has committed to staying in the country, despite the fact that his best friend has found a seemingly happier life in America. His also got some major sleep problems, but he won’t say exactly why. And he’s obviously still in love with the absent Nenebah, although he won’t explain her absence, either.
- Elias Cole is dying. And he wants to tell Adrian his life story, which mostly seems to involve how, when he was a university lecturer in the 1960s, he fell in love with the beautiful Saffia, who just happened to be the wife of another man.
Between 1991 and 2002, more than 50,000 people died in the Sierra Leone Civil War. While the novel never talks about what caused the war, it does go into great detail about the casualties, both physical and emotional. Adrian is particularly interested in the post-traumatic stress and fugue states that people are experiencing as a result of the war.
Along with the stories about the civilian victims of the war, Forno explores the idea of silent collaboration. Is it worse to have actively been involved in committing atrocities of war, or to be a person who implicates others by revealing small pieces of potentially damaging information? And what does it say about a person’s character when they end up in a mental hospital as a result of the acts they committed compared to those who deny any culpability for their actions whatsoever?
There’s a lot to think about as you read through this book (not to mention that ending that I just can’t quite seem to recover from! I mean really! How could he??). I did think it was a tad too long, mostly because the story took awhile to get up to speed, but I ended up really liking it. Despite the ending.