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The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok

The Memory Palace (edition 2011)

by Mira Bartok

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4452023,513 (3.85)23
Title:The Memory Palace
Authors:Mira Bartok
Info:Free Press (2011), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:20th Century, America, Art, Memoir, Mothers & Daughters, Psychology, Sisters, Women

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The Memory Palace by Mira Bartók



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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
I would have given this a higher rating because the writing is very well-done. However, it's a depressing story that highlights mental illness and how destructive it is to children and how it ruins lives. Such a sad story. ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
I would have given this a higher rating because the writing is very well-done. However, it's a depressing story that highlights mental illness and how destructive it is to children and how it ruins lives. Such a sad story. ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
so sad that i had trouble getting into it. ( )
  mahallett | Jul 25, 2015 |
Such a wonderful book. Bartok told her story so well with such fine craftsmanship. I learned so much, not only about these disabilities and homelessness, but about life in general. ( )
  Misty-Rose | Jun 1, 2015 |
The first half of this book is luridly fascinating. Bartok indelibly conveys the distress and menace of growing up with a single parent, her mother, who is deeply, intractably, and terrifyingly, mentally ill. In the 2nd half of the book, after her mother has tried to cut Bartok's throat, and after Bartok has essentially placed herself in quasi-witness-protection-like status (new name, undisclosed location), to evade her mother, the book drifted away from me. Since her mother at this point becomes homeless and remains so for the last 17 years of her life, the focus switches to Bartok's adult life in Italy, Norway, Israel, New York, and elsewhere. Why she chooses these scattered and mostly troubled episodes is never clear, nor how each might relate back to her childhood, and I found her adaptation of the "memory palace" idea incoherent and confusing. During these years Bartok flirts with notions of guilt about not being more present in her mother's life, this in spite of the fact that the last person who had tried to help her mother, (her grandmother), had, in return for her efforts, been beaten, had her money stolen, lost her home, and ultimately was hospitalized with multiple stab wounds. That all interventions had failed, that some had failed with particularly gruesome outcomes, and that Bartok only actually returns when she knows that her mother is terminally ill, don't collectively make that guilt any less real, but they do make it harder to relate to.

In the end the women in the story that intrigued me were not so much Bartok and her mother - they each get lots of air time - but rather her sister and her grandmother. Both are handled in such an opaque and incidental manner in the book that they cry out for a more substantial treatment. In the case of her sister, it is almost as if her presence has been redacted from Bartok's account. The memoir is prefaced with old photos, and in the family photo, it only shows Bartok and her mother: her sister's image has been snipped off the right side with only a few strands of her hair remaining in the frame. Bartok's The Memory Palace is very much her story and hers alone, and not so much theirs, even though all three women were similarly traumatized by her mother's madness.

As for her grandmother, she especially seems to warrant some kind of special acknowledgement, having always had food and a bed ready for the girls when their mother was at her most negligent or abusive. Her grandmother is depicted as weak, but her entire, hellish family life consisted of living in fear: initially of a brutal husband and subsequently of a deluded and violent daughter. After the girls left home, the burden became hers entirely, and she was, albeit reluctantly and at great cost to herself, the only family who tried to intervene on her daughter's behalf. ( )
  maritimer | Dec 28, 2014 |
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A gorgeous memoir about the 17 year estrangement of the author and her homeless schizophrenic mother, and their reunion.

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