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.
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: Judith Barrow
- Kindle Edition published June 2017
- Category: Short Stories, Historical, Fiction, Book Review, Books, Reading
Ashford, home of the Howarth family, is a gritty northern mill town, a community of no-nonsense Lancashire folk, who speak their minds and are quick to judge. But how many of them are hiding secrets that wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of others?
This is a wonderful collection of short stories, focussing on characters from Judith Barrow’s Howarth family trilogy and giving a brief but heartfelt glimpse into some of their lives, pre saga. Including situations and misfortunes, some of which were brought about by the restrictions and expectations of the time, unmarried women who have no choice but to give up their baby and the cruelty meted out to a conscientious objector to name just a couple. Others which are sadly still relevant today, namely the victims of incest and rape. Continue reading
It’s all on twelve months since I first wrote about my favourite opening lines, so I reckon I’ve read enough books to warrant another selection. So in no particular order, here they are. Clicking on the book title will take you to my review if you’d like more info.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Mabel had known there would be silence. That was the point, after all. No infants cooing or wailing. No neighbour children playfully hollering down the lane. No pad of small feet on wooden stairs worn smooth by generations, or clackety-clack of toys along the kitchen floor. All those sounds of her failure and regret would be left behind, and in their place there would be silence.
Lowcountry Punch by Boo Walker
The Miami I knew wasn’t all G-strings and mojitos. We were undercover, working our way up the stairs of a parking garage in the Latin Quarter, minutes from a cocaine exchange, with no backup. We’d been trying to get to whoever was up there for two weeks and needed to make arrests. I’d be damned if we were going to let them walk away just because there hadn’t been a chance to call it in. Continue reading
A tough choice, I’ve read lots a great books this year and, in no particular order (as they say) here are my top 20 reads. They are all rated either 4.5 or 5 stars. Clicking on the cover links to Amazon UK.
Raven’s Choice ~ The Replacement Chronicles #1 ~ Prehistoric fiction, based on fact
As Mark finds out, many people including himself, carry Neanderthal genes although he’ll never know for sure the exact circumstances that brought about this occurrence. But it signifies that Early Modern Man didn’t take the place of extinct Neanderthals but rather the races mixed and interbred, which is proved by the presence of Neanderthal DNA in present day man. It’s such an interesting approach to how life might have been all those years ago, and even more so because it’s a very credible scenario.
A wonderfully researched, dramatic and detailed narrative sets the scene for forthcoming instalments of The Replacement Chronicles, which I look forward to following.
Full review Amazon US
The Dead Lands ~ post apocalyptic, sci-fi, horror
This is a very well crafted story with perfect pacing, the drama unfolds with consistency to keep the narrative flowing effortlessly. The characters are well-developed and real, Lane especially, but all the personalities are drawn brilliantly, whether you love or loathe them. I think this story covers every eventuality with action, of which there is plenty, greed, deception, horror and sadness. Balancing out the negatives are loyalty, a touch of romance and truthfulness. And the promise of satisfactory karma for the villain of the piece. It’s graphic, gruesome, gritty….and great!
Full review Amazon US Continue reading
- Author: Judith Barrow
- Published: July 2015 by Honno Welsh Women’s Press
- Category: Historical Fiction
It’s 1969 and Mary Schormann is living quietly in Wales with her ex-POW husband, Peter, and her teenage twins, Richard and Victoria.
Her niece, Linda Booth, is a nurse – following in Mary’s footsteps – and works in the maternity ward of her local hospital in Lancashire.
At the end of a long night shift, a bullying new father visits the maternity ward and brings back Linda’s darkest nightmares, her terror of being locked in. Who is this man, and why does he scare her so?
There are secrets dating back to the war that still haunt the family, and finding out what lies at their root might be the only way Linda can escape their murderous consequences.
The third and final part of the trilogy picks up the story in the late 1960’s and concentrates on the next generation. Peter and Mary Schormann are still living in Wales with their teenage twins, Richard and Victoria. Richard has gone into medicine, taking after his father, and not letting his hearing problems hinder his career or his life. He is staying with his aunt and uncle in Ashford while he attends interviews for the university hospital in Manchester. He’s rescued from a potentially dangerous situation by Karen Worth who proves to be a catalyst in the story. Continue reading
- Author: Judith Barrow
- Published: May 2013 by Honno Press
- Category: Historical Fiction
In May 1950, Britain is struggling with the hardships of rationing and the aftermath of the Second World War. Peter Schormann, a German ex-prisoner of war, has left his home country to be with Mary Howarth, matron of a small hospital in Wales. The two met when Mary was a nurse at the POW camp hospital. They intend to marry, but the memory of Frank Shuttleworth, an ex-boyfriend of Mary’s, continues to haunt them and there are many obstacles in the way of their happiness, not the least of which is Mary’s troubled family. When tragedy strikes, Mary hopes it will unite her siblings, but it is only when a child disappears that the whole family pulls together to save one of their own from a common enemy.
Changing Patterns continues the story of Mary Howarth and her family in the post WWII years. At the close of Pattern of Shadows, Mary, her brother Tom and their mother had moved from Ashford in the North of England, to Wales. Mary believed her ill-fated liaison with the German doctor and POW Peter Schormann was over until he turned up on her doorstep five years later. The war may be over but prejudice and danger still linger on, even in a small Welsh village. Continue reading
There are many books in my review list and I’m looking forward to these forthcoming reads.
’50 YEARS OF MEMORIES ARE HIDDEN IN THE WALLS OF THE LOFT…
Annie only needs to find one… the one that will save Oliver’s life.
On the day of their wedding, Annie saw nothing but happiness ahead, but when an accident calls her back to Memory House, her world is changed forever. Ophelia Browne, the woman who taught Annie to find the memories in a forgotten object, is leaving the house and she’s leaving all those powerful memories behind.
After only three nights in the loft, Annie must now find the single most meaningful memory in Oliver’s mind. If she finds it in time, she can save his life, if she doesn’t…well that’s something she can’t afford to think about.
Readers will welcome back the much-loved characters from Memory House and enjoy a few new friends!’
‘After everything, there is peace. The Collective took London away from the gangs that terrorised the city after the plague and the slow terror of the Breakdown. The blood on the streets has dried. There is food, water and good housing. Everyone has work. But the meek have not inherited the earth. On a bitterly cold night a woman is brutalised and murdered, shattering the fragile calm of the city. The investigation of London’s first murder in two years falls to Inspector Timothy Conlan and the District team of the New Metropolitan Police. Tim ‘Con’ Conlan serenely navigates the harsh new London. He is dedicated, conscientious and smiling. Around him society is broken. People are traumatised, fearful and wracked with guilt. Now the dark, empty spaces of the city are being stalked by a monster. Con must find and catch a killer who seems to know his every move. At the same time, there is something rotten at the core of the new government. In the very heart of the Collective, massive lies are being spun. There are rumours of war, whispers of betrayal. The Collective is harsh, relentless and utterly unforgiving. The problem for Con is simple: find the killer; stay alive.’ Continue reading