The Memory by Judith Barrow ~ Irene’s Story #FamilySaga #Fiction @judithbarrow77 #FridayReads @honno

Author: Judith Barrow 

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.

The chapters are short, beginning with a brief but very clear understanding of Irene’s life in the present, those sections spanning a twenty four hour period, and flashbacks chart her life as it unfolds. At one point she witnesses something that never leaves her and drives the relationship she has with her mother, as well as some of the life changing decisions she will make throughout her life. And eventually, after all the years of lies and deceit a sad truth is finally revealed.

Irene is a wonderfully portrayed character, loyal and reliable with an inner strength that makes you just want things to turn out well for her, although it’s not all doom and gloom by any means. Judith Barrow gets into the skin of her characters, totally capturing the conflicting emotions, feelings of angst, joy, love, compassion, sadness and utter despair that make up this incredible, moving and well written story.

I chose to read and review The Memory based on a copy of the book kindly supplied by the publisher.

Book links ~ Amazon UK | Amazon US | Hive | Book Depository 

About the Author

Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines, has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for forty years.
She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University and she has had short stories, plays, reviews and articles, published throughout the British Isles and has won several poetry competitions..
She is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.

Author links ~ Website | Blog |Twitter | Facebook 

25 thoughts on “The Memory by Judith Barrow ~ Irene’s Story #FamilySaga #Fiction @judithbarrow77 #FridayReads @honno

      1. Isn’t it a brillinat review, Val, so insightful and concise. I have been so lucky with the opinions of The Memory, from readers and experienced bloggers, alike… so far. I am grateful to you all. I don’t understand why I can’t ‘like’ posts. it’s frustrating, when trying to show appreciation. Thanks for dropping by and commenting

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Isn’t it just, Sally. I am feeling humbled yet thrilled at the same time. And thank you, as well,your opinion and support always means such a lot. x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review of The Memory.
    I’ve read all of Judith Barrow’s books, so I bought this as soon as it came out. I liked the structure of this book a lot – it’s written in the first person, and each chapter starts with a small section in the present day (2002), with Irene, the main character, taking care of her mother, who has dementia.
    Wonderfully reviewed. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear Bookish Elf.. So thrilled to read this. I really appreciate your comments on The Memory – and that you enjoy my work. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

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