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Monday, 28 June 2010

Review: My Name is Memory

Author: Ann Brashares
Release date: June 2010
Genre: Paranormal Romance, YA crossover,
Target audience: 14+ (contains sexual content)

Summary from Goodreads:
Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. Daniel has "the memory", the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he's previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.

Interwoven through Sophia and Daniel's unfolding present day relationship are glimpses of their expansive history together. From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes torturous path of seeking each other time and time again. But just when young Sophia (now "Lucy" in the present) finally begins to awaken to the secret of their shared past, to understand the true reason for the strength of their attraction, the mysterious force that has always torn them apart reappears. Ultimately, they must come to understand what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.

My Name is Memory is a story that spans centuries and deals with themes that I find fascinating: redemption, guilt, life after death, the nature of the soul and the nuture of the spirit. On the face of it, this is a book which I should love and I desperately wanted to but sadly I couldn't get beyond a mild indifference for it.

The story of Daniel, the man who has lived many lives and retains his memories is an intriguing one. He remembers his families, his friends, his knowledge and skills but above all he remembers Sophia. He killed her in his very first life and he has carried the guilt in his memory ever since. She was not Sophia then but a girl in an African village. She was Sophia much later and I'm not going to give any more away here for fear of spoilers except to say that he loved her in the deepest way that one soul can love another. Daniel's very special memory is not his only ability. He can recognise souls from one life to another even though their physical embodiment changes with each new birth. I found this such an interesting idea. That one soul could be the same essence time and again and yet look so profoundly different after each rebirth. The concept of this book is magnificent. My indifference for the story was due to the way that it was told.

The narrative unfolds in two different ways. Daniel describes the story of his past lives through a first person narrative. Each of his chapters recounts some memory of who he is and how he longed to be with Sophia. These are then alternated with a third person narrative of his present life and meeting the current reincarnation of Sophia. I felt that Daniel's chapters were excessively detailed. They slowed the plot right down and I was often wondering if I should keep reading. What kept me reading was the mystery surrounding the relationship between the two. There is one chapter where Daniel talks about one of his lives where he kept pigeons and I was reading it thinking: I don't need to know this. Why did the author not cut this chapter out? What will this mean to the rest of the story? I obviously missed the point of the pigeon story completely.

There were other things that irritated me including the dialogue. However, the most frustrating part of the story for me was the ending. I really believed that if I read to the end it would all make sense and there would be an epic climax. Unfortunately, even the climax was littered with unneccesary detail and after the main event, the two main characters having yet another converstaion. I honestly couldn't believe it. The plot just did not unfold in a way that worked for me. I hasten to add that at the close of the book, I still did not have all my answers and I certainly would not read another one to find them out. I felt cheated! I had read this very slow and winding story only to find out that actually, I was going to have to do it again to get a level of resolution that I was happy with.

Overall, I am rather disappointed that I didn't connect with My Name is Memory. The idea was beautifully epic yet my dream of a moving and deep love story was never realised. I'm sure this book will find it's readership. The method and language often felt very adult to me as I was reading and so I wonder if YA is really the market for it. Read it if you like your stories slow like the erosion of our coastline.

Thanks to Hodder for sending me the book for review. Apparently I much prefer John Grisham to Ann Brashares. Who'd have thought?!


Cara! said...

"Read it if you like your stories slow like the erosion of our coastline." I literally laughed out loud when I read that.

I still don't know if I want to read this! The concept is so genius that I just want to hope and pray it's amazing, yet by the sound of it the story is rather dull. Eh, I'll probably end up giving it a shot.

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

I really loved this one! When I was first sent the review request I didn't know if I should take it as I didn't especially enjoy Brashares first adult novel (by the way, I thought this was adult too, I didn't know it was being published as YA?) Anyway, I'm so accepted this one. I loved the historical aspect of it, the love story and the ending totally left me wanting more! I liked the pigeon story too - it made me pretty sad. I think we're on totally different ends of the spectrum on this one, but I enjoyed reading your review as always. Always good to see different viewpoints. :)

Caroline said...

I see that, in the end, we agree :)
I reviewed it yesterday but as always you express my feelings about a book way better than I express them myself ;)

I most absolutely loved the concept of memory and reincarnation and the consequences it has on Daniel (I prefered the character of Ben though!) but I wasn't really interested in the romance after a while.

I have the feeling there will be a sequel, is it just me? Otherwise I'm not getting the book at all... I mean, we still don't know the whole story behind Joachim or how it ended up...

And LOL about the pigeon, I did think "is it actually relevant? Are we going to see the pigeon come in one of Lucy's narrative?"
I hope your conference was great!
Talk soon!

I Want To Read That said...

I heard so many mixed feelings for this one - people are either loving it or hating it. On the basis of how much I loved the Sisterhood of the Travelling pants series I will probably give it a go - but maybe wait for the paperback. Thanks for your review - is it wrong that I am now very curious about the pigeon chapter?

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

The ending really irritated me, as well. Though I really enjoyed Daniel's chapters. I thought they were kind of fascinating!

Library Mice said...

I have never read any of Brashares' books. Reading your review, I am not sure whether I'll bother either!

Robby said...

There's just something about Anne Brashares books that really turns me off. I don't know what it is. I think I need to read one of her books and see how I feel. This book doesn't sound very intruiging to me.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

I like your honest and in-depth review. I really want to read this book so, so much, but I also love to hear different opinions. Great review. Thanks for sharing!

Christina/Book Addict said...

Thanks for the review, Becky! I am not sure about this one. I do love Ann Brashares, but this sounds too Time Traveler's Wife for me. I agree with Cara- I laughed out loud when I read this line: "Read it if you like your stories slow like the erosion of our coastline." Hysterical! Anyway, I think I'm going to hold off on this one--thanks for being honest!

Becky said...

Cara, some people have really enjoyed this so I think you should certainly give it a try. Maybe you should borrow it from a library rather than buy the hardback just in case you feel the same way I do.

Leanna, ah! You are one of my opposites. I know there are lots of people who thought this was such an incredible book. Glad you got to enjoy it more than I did.

Caroline, I'm going to go and read your review. Honestly, I am still highly confused about the pigeon and yes surely there must be another book otherwise... Really that's just plain dodgy.

Sammee, if you like the author's other books then I say yes you should definitely give it a try.

Sophie, the ending was just so cliffhanger-ish. I'm glad you liked the Daniel parts. I hope you read the next book and tell me what happens.

Library Mice, I feel a little guilty putting you off. So many people seem to have enjoyed the book. I'm just not one of them.

Robby, hmmm... well I thought the premise was intriguing. It was the execution that just disconnected me from the story. I'm not sure if this book is of your taste or not really. It was certainly very detailed.

Irena, Thanks! Your support for my less than enthusiastic take on it is very reassuring. I hope you do enjoy it when you read it.

Becky said...

Christina, I'm glad it made you laugh. I just couldn't think of another way to explain the very slow and intricate story. Anyway, it is a pleasure to share with you my thoughts. On my proof it says that the book is like TTW so maybe it is. I haven't read it because you know, it's an adult book!

Dwayne said...

Aww - I liked this book a lot. I haven't read The Time Traveller's Wife so maybe that helped. Or maybe I'm just really so easy to please. XD

I missed reading your reviews, Becky!

Lynsey Newton said...

LOL This was one of the funniest reviews I've read of yours. I've got to read it now just to see what the pigeons comment was all about and how it all ends. I'm sorry you didn't love it but I hope I do. I'm going to give it a go anyway as I love the premise :)

Lauren said...

Okay, that took me a whie to digest. I read your review a few hours ago and I've thought about it and what I've concluded is that... you disliked it for the same reasons I liked it. Which is weird. I'll be interested to see how I feel about any sequels though, since the open ending worked so well for me.

Hilarous review, though. You express your dissatisfaction most eloquently. :D

prophecygirl said...

I must admit Becky, I'm a bit dubious to read this one. I've heard some really bad things about it, and I read a few pages and was a bit like 'Ehh?'. The style seems a bit strange.

I'll still give it a go, but my expectations have definitely been lowered. Thanks for being so honest, and here's hoping you like future books by this author more.

Becky said...

Lynsey, I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the pigeon issue. It is still bothering me. I'm glad you enjoyed the humour in this. :-)

Lauren, the open-endedness worked for you? I guess each to their own but I think it was much too open to be satisfying. I'mn intrigued to know how you felt about the pigeon chapter. I agree though I obviously disliked what you and Caroline liked. I conclude that I am strange!

Jenny, Yes indeed. I will give this author another chance. The style is definitely not for me but I think you might get into it. You really liked The Midnight Guardian and it reminded a little of that (minus the vampires). I wish you luck!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Thank you for the honest review :)

I like the UK cover.

I've been hearing mixed things about this one.

Clover said...

There are so many mixed reviews of this book that I think I'll have to read it to make up my own mind, but my expectations are pretty low at this point!

Sarah said...

Hi Becky, I can see why you had problems with this one - it did drag in places & I have to agree with your comment about the pigeon story! I did enjoy it but I think I'd have liked it even more if it had been shorter. I've added your link to my review :o)