Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Memory Book - Rowan Coleman

About the book...
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...?

About the author...

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband, and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family which includes a very lively set of toddler twins whose main hobby is going in the opposite directions. When she gets the chance, Rowan enjoys sleeping, sitting and loves watching films; she is also attempting to learn how to bake.

Rowan would like to live every day as if she were starring in a musical, although her daughter no longer allows her to sing in public. Despite being dyslexic, Rowan loves writing, and The Memory Book is her eleventh novel. Others include The Accidental Mother, Lessons in Laughing Out Loud and the award-winning Dearest Rose, a novel which lead Rowan to become an active supporter of domestic abuse charity Refuge, donating 100% of royalties from the ebook publication of her novella, Woman Walks Into a Bar, to the charity. Rowan does not have time for ironing.
My thoughts...
Where to begin! This is one of the most beautiful covers I've seen in a long time, it just shouts open me.  That and all the good things I'd read about The Memory Book made me want to read it.  I had an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than willing to give.  
I just loved it!! Rowan opened up a palette of emotions almost from the first page. For me this book was an emotional roller coaster, I swung from one emotion to the other as I turned the pages - one minute crying, the next chuckling out loud. This book touched me on so many levels. Firstly, I'm the same sort of age as the main character Claire who is suffering from early on-set Alzheimer's  I have a daughter in her early twenties and my father-in-law suffered from the disease for many years before passing away.  For those reasons I felt great empathy and really lived the journey with all of the characters.
Greg, Claire's husband buys her a beautiful book to record her memories in, something that actually becomes a life-line not just to Claire but to the whole family who each add their memories too. It is unusual for a book to be told from so many perspectives but absolutely right to do so in this story.  Each person allows an insight into how Claire's illness has affected not just Claire but the whole family, her mother, husband and her children. 
Rowan sensitively exposed the emotions felt when a person you love isn't really there anymore and in the next breath they are back again.  It really can change that quickly.  The mother-daughter-daughter-mother set up was heart breaking to read for me. I could visualise myself in both Claire and her mothers shoes and was physically distressed at the thought that my daughter in Caitlin's shoes with a problem but choosing to suffer alone rather than share it.  This isn't the natural succession of things and it was gut wrenching to read these scenes.  Then turn the page and I was laughing out loud at the antics Claire and her three year old daughter got up to - her little partner in crime who didn't take much persuading  to help Claire break out and feel free again.  I've been there in real life laughing at a situation that is so far removed from a persons true character and then later feeling sad knowing they would have been mortified if they had been aware of what they'd just done.
This book was so sensitively written it will stay with me for a long time.  In fact I discussed this book far more at a recent book group meeting than the book we were there to discuss.  So much so that everyone was going away to read it themselves.  Yes, it is a sad book, but it is also up-lifting. A story about family life during a terrible illness - a story that will sadly affect a great number of us in one way or another during some part of our lives.
Buy the book, get some tissues and line up a friend to talk to when you are finished.  This I'm sure will be one of the most talked about books of 2014.  So thank you Rowan for opening my eyes and helping me see things I didn't always see at the time.
I gave this book 5/5 stars

For more information about Rowan Coleman visit her Website or follow on Twitter

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