Published: March 2020 by Honno Press
Category: Family Saga, Dual Timeline, Fiction, Book Review
Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.
Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.
The Memory tells Irene’s story from her perspective, alternating between then and now. Beginning in the now, the story gives an immediate sense of Irene’s life. It’s not at all what she envisioned for herself all those years ago, as she struggles with her full time role as a carer for her mother, with all that entails when someone is incapable of doing anything for themselves.
Everything changed for Irene when her sister was born. She was eight years old. Gone was her happy childhood, the days when her mother laughed and they spent time together, enjoying each others company. Rose was born with Down’s Syndrome and from the first moment Irene loved her, as did her father and grandmother. But seemingly not her mother who rejected Rose, wanting nothing to do with her, and withdrew from the family. Irene sees a side to mother that she never knew existed and it tears their family apart.
A lot of the time, Mum stayed in bed. It upset me; I wanted my old mum back. But, as the weeks went by, it also made me resent her. Nanna said it was because she was sad. I didn’t see why; like I said to Sam enough times, it wasn’t as though we asked her to look after Rose.
Irene became a surrogate mother to Rose, supported by her father and grandmother, and loved her unconditionally. She and her best friend, and later soul mate, Sam, spent as much time as possible with Rose. The prejudices and feelings of the time towards children who were different angered them both, and meant they spent much of their time with Rose on their own. Irene’s life takes many turns, and throughout it all Sam is there for the good times and the bad.
Told sympathetically and with gritty realism, The Memory centres around Irene’s troubled love/hate relationship with her mother, poignant, shocking and compelling in equal measure, as the story evolves.
I’ve been awake for over a day. I glance at the clock with the extra large numbers, bought when she could still tell the time. Now it’s just something else for her to stare at, to puzzle over. It’s actually twenty-seven hours since I slept, and for a lot of them I’ve been on my feet. Not that this is out of the ordinary. This has been going on for the last year: long days, longer nights.