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…?
CHRISSI: The Memory Book is described in reviews as ‘life affirming’. Do you agree with this and if so why?
BETH: One hundred percent. It is definitely life affirming but in such a bitter sweet way. Our main character is Claire who has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She has two daughters, an older girl Caitlin from a previous relationship who she brought up alone, not telling the father about the pregnancy. Now she is married to Greg, the love of her life and has had a daughter with him Esther who is still very young. The bitter sweet part is that the Alzheimer’s is progressing more quickly than her family had expected, to a point where she is not safe left on her own. She begins to make a memory book to try and capture old memories so that they cannot be forgotten. There is no magical cure for her illness so there’s not going to be a happy ending but the story makes you think about how lucky you are to be alive and well in comparison and to live life to the fullest.
BETH: Discuss the relationship between Claire and Greg.
CHRISSI: I found the relationship incredibly moving between Claire and Greg. It was so hard to read about their relationship unravelling before their eyes. It must be incredibly hard for both sufferer and partner to deal with this horrible disease. Claire knew that she loved Greg at some point, but she couldn’t help the way the disease was making her feel. I thought it was particularly hard to read how Greg had to deal with ‘losing’ his wife so quickly. *gets all choked up*
CHRISSI: This book has been compared to Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You. This is one of our favourite books. Did the comparison affect your preconceptions of The Memory Book?
BETH: I always hate when books are compared to other books that I love! (A similar thing is happening with Gone Girl at the moment). However, I tried to ignore the hype monster, put JoJo Moyes book to the back of my mind and just enjoy the story that I was reading. It has a similar message sure, but I think it stands alone as a great story in its own right.
BETH: What did you think of Claire’s decision not to tell Caitlin who her father was?
CHRISSI: Oh gosh! That’s such a hard question. I think that except for exceptional circumstances that everyone deserves to know who their father is. It’s a part of them. I could totally understand Claire’s reasons why, but it really did make things hard in the long run for Caitlin and her father.
CHRISSI: Discuss the mother/daughter relationships in the book.
BETH: We have a few mother/daughter relationships in the novel. There’s Claire’s mother Ruth who has already nursed her own husband through Alzheimer’s disease until he died. Ruth and Claire have a bit of a fiery relationship as Claire is a strong and independent woman who when the disease hits, is finding it difficult to be taken care of and starts to resent her mother monitoring her so closely, even though she is doing it purely out of love. I enjoyed watching the relationship change between these two characters throughout the book, it was truly heart-warming. Then we have Claire’s relationships with her two daughters Esther and Caitlin. In her relationship with Esther, she becomes frustrated when she cannot read to her any more but ends up spending a lot of time with her doing fun things like escaping to the park and trying to cook – which ends in disaster! With Caitlin, it’s a bit more difficult, she has her own secrets and is finding the burden of knowing that she will have to care for her mother and that her mother will slowly forget her very difficult to take on.
BETH: Discuss how Greg copes with what is happening to Claire.
CHRISSI: *gets choked up again* I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to deal with someone you love having this terrible disease. It really does destroy the person that used to be, and to watch someone you love have to go through that… it must be awful. I think Greg copes well considering what he is dealing with. You can feel his sadness and his detachment from his family. There are twists and turns in the story but I don’t want to spoil it for those that haven’t read it yet!
CHRISSI: Do you think this book is sensitive enough to the disease?
BETH: Definitely. I think it was portrayed very well. I was quite tentative when I was reading this novel, as Alzheimer’s and dementia are one of my worst fears. However, as Claire slips a bit further the author even manages to bring a bit of humour into situations that Claire finds herself in that were “sad-funny,” which I appreciated.
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: Most definitely. A beautiful writer!
Would we recommend it?:
Without a doubt!