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...?
Published by Ebury Publishing on 30 January 2014, The Memory Book is Rowan Coleman's eleventh novel.
I reviewed her last novel; Dearest Rose back in October 2012.
Claire is an intelligent, attractive forty-something. She's the mother to two gorgeous girls; Caitlin aged 20 and Esther aged three. Claire is married to the man of her dreams. Greg came along quite late in her life, she'd already raised Caitlin single handedly, she had a great job as an English teacher and owned her own home. She and Greg met, fell in love and are now married and the parents to the delicious Esther. Life is sweet.
And then, life decides to kick Claire in the teeth. She's diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease - life is never going to be the same again. Claire and her mother Ruth know Alzheimer's very well. Claire's beloved father had the disease too, both of them know exactly what to expect.
Greg buys Claire a beautiful notebook - The Memory Book. Each of them will record their memories of the life that they had together; the good parts, the funny days, the important events. For Claire, this is her way of putting together everything that she feels define her and her life.
Rowan Coleman is an outstanding writer, The Memory Book is a story that is both heartbreakingly sad, yet wonderfully funny and uplifting at the same time. Claire and Caitlin narrate the majority of the story, with input from both Ruth and Greg along the way, and this enables the reader to glimpse back in time to experience the events that shaped Claire's life. We share her heartbreak and her joy, we are there when she finds her true love in Greg and we follow her step by step as her brain begins to let her down.
There is a real touch of emotional genius in this story, Rowan Coleman has portrayed the disjointed workings of Claire's damaged brain so well, both the gut wrenching sadness and grief and also the naughty mischief and almost childlike thought processes that bring the much appreciated light touch to the story.
The Memory Book was never going to be a 'happy ever after' read, the devastation of a cruel illness is central to the story. However, the tender writing, the joy and laughter - especially Claire's changing relationship with her tiny daughter Esther, and the fabulous characters make the heart soar.
There is a line quite near to the beginning of the book, spoken by Claire who is talking about her mother Ruth. This line says so much .... it made me cry;
"..... but I don't, because she is my mum, and I want her. And I know I will want her, even when I don't know that I do."
Rowan Coleman's writing gets better and better. There is no doubt that The Memory Book is her very best novel to date. It is a joy, and I will be recommending it to everyone that I meet.
Finally, I have to comment on the absolutely damn gorgeous cover. It fits the story perfectly. The complete book is a thing of great beauty, with delicate illustration on the inside cover too. I know a lot of my blogger friends have their copy as an ebook, and whilst I do appreciate that many people prefer to read on a Kindle, it is when a book as beautiful as this falls into my hands that I remind myself why I only read hard copies.
The Memory Book will proudly take it's place on my shelf of favourites, and I know that every time I pass the bookcase and glance over, I will see that flash of a red cover and be reminded of this exquisite story.
My thanks to Amelia from Ebury Publishing who sent my copy for review.
I'm very excited to have tickets to Lunch with Rowan Coleman in March, part of the York Literary Festival.
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 charityRefuge, 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.
To find out more about Rowan Coleman, visit her website at: www.rowancoleman.co.uk, Facebook or Twitter: @rowancoleman.