Thursday, July 28, 2011

book review: The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

The Memory of LoveThe backstory: The Memory of Love was shortlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize and won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize

My thoughts: Fresh off my experience of loving Tea Obreht's writing in The Tiger's Wife but being somewhat disenchanted with the novel itself, I started The Memory of Love and had a remarkably similar experience. The Memory of Love features several main characters: Adrian, a British psychologist; Kai, a young surgeon; and Elias, an elderly man who once was a professor enamored with Saffia, who was married to Julius. The book is set in Sierra Leone just after its civil war.  Reading The Memory of Love, I realized that despite how much I love multiple narrators, when I'm much more interested in one part of the story, it makes the rest of it drag somewhat.

I thoroughly enjoyed the tales of Elias, but Adrian and Kai bored me somewhat. All the characters benefited from Forna's beautiful writing also being filled with rich metaphors and truth. I found her prose moving and illuminating  but too many of the characters moved me by enhancing the truths revealed in this novel's prose.

Favorite passage: "Conversation here can be challenging, language is a blunter instrument, each word a heavy black strike with a single meaning. To say exactly what you mean, to ask precisely the right question, this is what has to be done. For the bluntness of the language doesn't mean people speak their minds. Rather, they use the spaces to escape into."

The verdict: Despite beautiful writing and an interesting premise, something kept me from fully engaging with this novel and loving it. I appreciate Forna's writing and story, but I did not love it.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Length: 445 pages
Publication date: January 4, 2011
Source: I bought it for my Kindle (although that is not currently a purchasing option)

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. I have such mixed feelings for books that make short lists. I want to read them because they are supposed to be fantastic (in some way, right?) but then when I read them I am left wanting. Is it the expectation thing that gets in the way? Sometimes I think that judges look for ambiguity and aloofness in the writing and if they find it...voila, they add it to the list!

  2. Oh, I am sorry that you didn't have such a great reaction to this one. It's hard when books have pieces that are great and then are ruined by boring sections. Makes things feel uneven, I think. Thanks for sharing your candid opinions on this one with us. It was much appreciated/

  3. I was truly looking forward to reading this one most of all. I'm sorry this didn't work out too well.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!