Book Review: The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

The Memory BookThe Memory Book by Rowan Coleman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll be honest, for most of this book – right until nearly the very end in fact – this was not going to get four stars from me. I was in a quandary because I felt that Rowan Coleman’s book deserved more than three stars but Goodreads doesn’t allow 3.5.

There are two reasons why I wanted to lower the rating for this novel which deals with a moving and fascinating subject – early onset Alzheimer’s disease – and is well written on the whole.

The first is that I didn’t like the chief protagonist – Claire. I couldn’t empathise with her plight and instead found her selfish and a little stupid as a person. I never did warm to her.

The second is that the whole vehicle for the plot – that we are reading the ‘Memory book’ Claire and her family are writing so that all her memories are there and kept forever even as they slip from her mind for good – just doesn’t work. All plot vehicles need to be consistent to work and this one doesn’t. It reads like a novel told from four perspectives – not like a diary supposedly written, on the most part, by a woman who is already losing her mind and regularly relapses. This device didn’t work for me and had to lose a star as a result.

That said, even though I had my suspicions of what was going on (it had to be one of two possible outcomes) and I was getting more wound up by how selfish Claire was being, even so I read to the end and I’m glad I did. Coleman, for all her faults, FINISHED this book well. It didn’t glamorize the condition, it didn’t make a cliché out of the storyline; yet it finished the right way. For that, the author must be congratulated. Even though I never bonded with Claire, I felt a lump come to my throat and a tear in my eye at the end. I bonded more with her daughter, Caitlin, and loved this character. In fact, I wonder if her storyline wasn’t developed enough? I would have liked to see where things went next for this fighter.

So…a bit of a mixed bag for me this novel. Certainly, I wasn’t bored and certainly I felt my emotions tugged – though not always how I would like them to be. It’s well-written and flows well; I’m just not sure the idea of the memory book actually worked.

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