The Memory of Love is a story of courage and survival set on New Zealand's North Island where a Swedish doctor's lonely life is changed when she rescues a small boy. This beautifully written novel explores the destructive, forbidden and healing powers of love.
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It seems that Linda Olsson has a penchant for writing about lonely, wounded people who are otherwise quite dissimilar finding one another. In Astrid and Veronika (a novel I loved), her characters are an elderly recluse, thought by the townsfolk to be a witch, and a 30-year old writer devastated by the death of her finace. In her latest, Marion, a physician in her 50s, has been living as a semi-recluse on the New Zealand coast when an eight-year old boy, Ika, comes into her life. Ika doesn't talk much, makes little eye contact, and hates to be touched; Marion suspects that he may be autistic, and she soon finds evidence that he has been abused as well. Through Ika, Marion slowly comes back in touch with her own inner child and the tragic events and losses of her own past. And through Ika, she learns to let go and love again.
Olsson has experimented with structure here in a way that can sometimes be confusing. She leaps unexpectedly from the present to the past, from Ike's story to Marianne's, from Marion at 50 to Marianne at four, at eight, at 30. Her reminiscences often involve a "he" that isn't clearly defined, and even when he is, she speaks of ominous intuitions and forebodings that aren't always clear to the reader. In a way, it parellels the way that the mind works under pressure . . . but, still, it can be frustratingly confusing. This is what holds my overall rating of the novel back a bit. It might have been easier to follow in print.
On the whole, The Memory of Love doesn't match up to Astrid and Veronika, which for me was particularly notable for its lovely, spare but precise style that so well matched the novel's landscape. Perhaps it's time for Olsson to move on to other themes. Still, this is an engaging story and worth the reading time.
The reader, Susan Lyons, was just right for this story.
This book threw me at first. The protagonist is discussing her musings in the first part of the story with what seemed like such self-absorption, that initially I was ready to say that she needed a therapist more than a reader.
Happily, I can tell you that in retrospect, that all makes sense and fits with the unfolding story of a past trauma in her life that she integrates into her present day self by making friends with a little boy who needs help. This takes place in New Zealand, and I think that an isolated location is chosen for the setting to emphasize the way she is cut off from herself as well as everybody else.
I felt the book was a little winding around, but it is a good read.I would even say in looking back, that the tedious beginning would speak to the way she has damped down her emotions to cope with her repressed memories. Recommend.