Saturday 10 August 2019

Book Review. The Memory Box

The Memory Box by Margaret Forster


This novel is based around a simple concept; a found box with items left to a relative, the significance of which are not fully understood. Catherine, the protagonist, embarks on a search for their meaning and during this journey discovers information about the mother she never knew, who died when she was only six months old.  

Woven loosely around the main plot, other family members are somewhat shadowy and it is this part of the book that I found a little unsatisfactory.  Catherine's  ex- partner fades in and out of her life and her relationship with her cousin, who was the black sheep of the family, is the connecting link to her estranged relatives.   

The story unveils itself slowly but with a pleasing rhythm. Catherine, a strong- willed young woman in the early chapters of the book, develops a greater understanding of human nature as she delves into her mother's life. 

I wondered if Margaret Forster was an only child, and though I found nothing to refute this, I have not been able to confirm it either. It seems to me that the independent heroine of this novel projects  the particular status of an only child very well. Not only is Catherine very self centred, but her egotistical pursuit of her career to the detriment of her personal relationships is a sad reflection on modern values. We are led to believe that she has been somewhat damaged by her upbringing even though she clearly states that she had a very happy childhood with her step-mother. This and the fact that she feels compelled to explain to us that she never wants to have a child sit awkwardly in the narrative in my opinion.

The ending is a little weak and I wanted more. Catherine was clearly changed by the process of the search for meaning in her mother's artifacts, and though a number of threads were drawn together in the end, it still left me a little dissatisfied. The pace of the book gently slows and comes to a halt without any new disclosure, but overall it is a pleasurable read.

#bookreview #amwriting #amreading

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