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Memory Of Love by Aminatta Forna

Memory Of Love (edition 2010)

by Aminatta Forna

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4773721,645 (4.01)2 / 360
Title:Memory Of Love
Authors:Aminatta Forna
Info:Atlantic Monthly Press (2010), Hardcover, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Africa, short listed for Orange Prize, fiction

Work details

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

  1. 20
    The Boy Next Door: A Novel by Irene Sabatini (tangentialine)
    tangentialine: same elegiac, lyrical tone; same discussion of the ravages of civil war; analysis of white-black people interaction.
  2. 00
    Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin (krazy4katz)
    krazy4katz: Angel is a baker who makes cakes to support her husband and grandchildren. The story takes place in Rwanda after the genocidal war of 1994. Through her baking of cakes, Angel heals those around her as well as herself.
  3. 00
    A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (sylco)
  4. 00
    The bite of the mango by Mariatu Kamara (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Not a literary masterpiece, but a young girl's memoir of her harrowing experiences in Sierra Leone during the period of Forna's book.
  5. 00
    Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje (tangentialine)
    tangentialine: same elegiac, lyrical tone; same discussion of the ravages of civil war; also, outsider who comes to help.
  6. 00
    Ancestor Stones by Aminatta Forna (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Forna's first book about the civil war, told by four women.

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Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Great plot, bit of a slog to get through. There's a shorter book here struggling to get out! Interesting take on the aftermath of war, the pathologizing of the victim's experience and aid work in general. Lots to think about. I'll definately read more by Forna. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
How do neighbours or friends, ambivalent of intense political views, turn on each other with such violent swiftness during a civil war? How do people live alongside those with this unspeakable knowledge that one had tried to kill the other? How do people live with the horrors they committed or endured in a civil war? The novel answers these questions with brutal honesty: people, motivated by petty jealousies of everyday life unrelated to ideological policies, exact their revenges under the cover of civil war; unspeakable is the keyword and the coping mechanism of some survivors; the rest try to justify or rewrite their involvements.

Such an ambitious and admirable undertaking was only marred by the two-dimensional characterisations, particularly the portrayal of women as objects to be saved or lusted for - Saffia is beautiful and her husband's, Agnes is the helpless puzzle to be solved, Nenebah appears only for Kai to have sex with, Ileana is around to swear and smoke but weirdly never seems to be working despite the understaffing, Candy is to show that the men won't just have sex with anyone because she is just too sexually aggressively repulsive, Lisa to be distant so Adrian to justify his literal distance and affair. Of course, these views are all filtered through the three male protagonists but they themselves are no better with their singular trait of either saviour complexes or psychopathic lust, or as perfection itself with the one minor flaw which is always to be their downfall.

On the bright side, the author has a way of writing which seems completely ordinary until you realise later that it's more of a polished restraint because she knows she can write with gratuitous, mindblowing flourishes but would rather let the story take centre stage. Stay for the study of the effects of civil wars on the survivors, perpetrators and sufferers alike, but skip the cardboard cutouts. ( )
  kitzyl | Feb 6, 2016 |
I finished this with just a day to spare.
I’ve learnt my lesson that when reading Overdrive e-books, I have to keep an eye on the number of days left on my loan. Sounds obvious, no? After all, I know when my library books are due and I return them on time. But when I was reading The Beekeeper’s Apprentice on Overdrive, somehow I completely neglected that and was 2/3 through the book when I opened the app and the book disappeared! (I did return to the catalogue and try to borrow it again only to find there were 8 others on the waiting list – where there had been none before!). Argh.

So with Memory of Love, I made sure I finished it in good time. But it was a bit of a struggle at first.

It opens slowly, it opens a little uninterestingly, with an old man, Elias Cole, wasting away in his old age. I’d read about feisty old women anyday, but this guy, he was just dragging me down. The first bits of the book passed in a bit of a blur… perhaps because I was reading this ebook in the wee hours of Singapore time, trying to get over my jetlag. The ceiling fan spun above me, the old airconditioner wheezing away, trying to rid the room of the heat and humidity. And there I was, reading about hot humid Sierra Leone.

But that Elias Cole. He is selfish, he is quite miserable, and very obsessed with his colleague’s wife Saffia. He befriends his colleague Julius just so that he can be close to Saffia. Talk about creepy!

Cole is in the hospital and that is where we get introduced to more characters such as Adrian, a British psychologist, who visits with Cole and learns of his story. And Kai, a surgeon, who is plagued by his past and making plans to leave Sierra Leone.

And somehow everything begins to fall into place. Forna gradually reveals the connections among these three men. It’s probably not a spoiler to say that it’s their love for one woman. The title already suggests that this is a love story, or rather, love stories. And while I enjoyed reading the book, the truth is that I never quite fell in love with these tales. I liked the character of Kai and found his story interesting, especially his relationship with his nephew. Instead I found the story of Agnes, a patient of Adrian’s who regularly turns up at the mental hospital, more interesting, and wished she were a more central character…

This sounds all quite vague, perhaps because I read this book over 20 days (it’s a 21-day lending period), and in two countries (and two extremely different time zones). And in the end, it was the wandering Agnes whose story I still remember, whereas the others are a bit fuzzy around the edges. But I hope this sorta-review doesn’t stop you from reading this book. I know that many others have loved reading it, and it’s got great credentials as it was shortlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize and won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. ( )
  RealLifeReading | Jan 19, 2016 |
Forna takes readers Sierra Leone, a country attempting to recover after a civil war. Through the eyes of three men, we gradually come to understand that impact that the war had on individuals, families, and the country. Elias Cole, a University professor carries secrets with him from the civil war, secrets that he will reveal to Adrian, a British psychiatrist who has come to Sierra Leone to escape a failing marriage. Adrian also comes to know a surgeon who survived the civil war, Kai. The story unfolds through these three voices. Through most of the book, the war isn't discussed directly, but its effects are everywhere, and gradually Forna reveals the horrors that came with the war and the different ways that individuals coped.

Beautifully written. Although the audio was well done, at times, I thought it would be better to have read the book so that I could appreciate the language. ( )
  porch_reader | Feb 22, 2015 |
People think that war is the worst this country has ever seen; they have no idea what peace is like. The courage it takes simply to endure.

British psychologist Adrian Lockheart has accepted a one-year appointment in Sierra Leone, thinking he can make a difference in this country recovering from a brutal civil war. Initially he has only two patients at the hospital – a woman, Agnes, and a dying man, Elias Cole. Cole doesn't want to talk about the recent war, but about the woman he loved 30 years ago and how his desire for her affected his life. Adrian forms a friendship with a young surgeon, Kai, despite Kai's skepticism that Adrian can accomplish anything there. Adrian doesn't know what it's like to live there and to have lived through the war. How could Adrian hope to understand the survivors, and what does he think he can offer them? Adrian is persistent and he gradually finds a place to use his skills. As Elias, Kai, and others tell Adrian parts of their stories, the pieces begin to take shape in an unexpected way.

This book required more effort to read than I was expecting. It is more complex than Forna's earlier novel, Ancestor Stones. It was worth the effort. Although the story is told from multiple perspectives, I experienced it mainly from Adrian's perspective – an outsider who gradually made sense of the unfamiliar surroundings until it began to feel like home. However, Kai was the character I was most drawn to. Although Adrian believed he could help individuals cope with the psychological trauma left from the war, his motive for being there wasn't exactly altruistic. He was looking for excitement that was missing from his life at home. He could leave any time he wanted to. Kai was born there and could not easily leave.

This is the first book I've read that focuses on mental health issues in developing countries. Adrian's goal is to reintegrate the psychologically wounded into normal society, but he has no idea what normal means in this place and time. Adrian isn't able to help anyone until he adjusts his expectations. As challenging as provision of and access to mental health care can be in the developed world, the challenges are even greater in a developing country just emerging from a decade of civil war. Psychiatric referrals don't seem to be a consideration for hospital staff.

Kai has never once treated a would-be suicide. War had the effect of encouraging people to try to stay alive. Poverty, too. Survival was simply too hard-won to be given up lightly.

Recommended, particularly for readers preparing for careers in relief and international development. ( )
1 vote cbl_tn | Sep 29, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Farlig aktuell roman fra Sierra Leone
Om lidenskap, besettelse og borgerkrig.
added by annek49 | editDagbladet, Cathrine Krøger (Apr 25, 2011)
Forna’s characters weave in and out of each other’s lives, often with entirely unforeseeable and shocking consequences. They are so well drawn, and so universally authentic, that each time the narrative view switches from one to the other one almost longs for a convenient twodimensional caricature as light relief from possession. With whom can the reader most easily identify? Adrian, the English ingénu? Kai, the heroic surgeon who cannot see the green grass in the other field? Cole, the sell-out? Or Agnes — whose mind has quite rightly opted to walk rather than think about what she must endure?

Forna’s intense research into surgery and psychiatry is as lightly worn as her ability to hide her own craft as a writer...Let us hope that it takes its place where it deserves to be: not at the top of the pile of “African Literature” but outside any category altogether — and at the top of award shortlists
This is an ambitious project. Forna has written before about the power of storytelling to talk our lives into different shapes. Here she moves deftly between the enchantments of different narratives: the therapeutic, the confessional, the traumatic – flashbacks, nightmares, hauntings, fugue states where stories are lost or distorted beyond recognition and the sweetly joyous themes of new love, renewal, springing hope, second chances..... Forna understands that it is only by making patterns out of chaos that humans find the courage to continue living. And in this affecting, passionate and intelligent novel about the redemptive power of love and storytelling, she shows how it is done.

Forna's book is set in the city at almost exactly that time – not long after the end of one of the bloodiest civil wars in modern African history – and she captures exactly the sense of numbed brutalisation that I saw first-hand in many places: in the eyes of former child soldiers who had been forced to mutilate and murder their parents, in the camps full of young girls raped and enslaved by the rebel forces, and abandoned by their families because of the "shame". I remember all too vividly trying to collect the horror stories that were those lives and the absolute inadequacy of my questions: "How did it feel…?" We like to talk about conflict resolution, and truth and reconciliation, in the context of such nationwide atrocity (the particular gruesome speciality of the war in Sierra Leone was the systematic amputation of limbs; queues were formed in front of drugged young men with machetes. But how do you really go about healing that kind of pain?

That is one of the questions that Forna approaches with the utmost caution in an ambitious and deeply researched novel – and the answers she finds are never easy.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Aminatta Fornaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Holdbrook-Smith, KobnaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Simon, with Love
First words
On the iron-framed bed a single, scant sheet has moulded itself into the form of the human beneath.
People think war is the worst this country has ever seen: they have no idea what peace is like. The courage it takes simply to endure.
And when he wakes from dreaming of her, is it not the same for him? The hollowness in his chest, the tense yearning, the loneliness he braces against every morning until he can immerse himself in work and forget. Not love. Something else, something with a power that endures. Not love, but a memory of love.
I think it would be wrong to say I ever followed Saffia. In conversation the names of places she liked to visit or where she did her shopping might arise. Later, I might jot the detail down in my notebook. And if I happened to find myself there at any of those times, naturally I would look to see if she happened to be there also. Sometimes I might say hello. Other times, I thought it better not to intrude on her thoughts. I might have watched her from a distance. That was all.
Julius believed in himself. He didn’t fear death – for death was too insignificant, too small, it resided below the level of his contempt. He had survived a serious childhood illness that killed many others. He drew power from the fact of it, as though it proved he was blessed.
The Dean was a small man, dark-skinned, balding and possessed of a quicksilver energy, with tiny hands and feet, and high round buttocks which pitched him forward, so he appeared to approach the world at a trot.
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Amazon com:Set in Sierra Leone at the turn of the twenty-first century, Forna’s absorbing second novel (after Ancestor Stones, 2006) revolves around three very different men. British psychiatrist Adrian Lockheart has fled his failing marriage in England in the hopes of doing some good in Sierra Leone. Adrian becomes fascinated by two of his patients, elderly Elias Cole, a former university professor, and Agnes, a woman lost in a fugue state. The dying Cole reveals to Adrian, Scheherazade-like, how he fell in love with a radical colleague’s wife in the late 1960s, while Adrian must piece together the details of Agnes’ life. Adrian finds a friend in a haunted young surgeon, Kai, who is contemplating leaving the country. Kai questions some of Adrian’s risky decisions, such as his intention to track Agnes down once she leaves the hospital, but it is Adrian’s involvement with a local woman from Kai’s past that shocks the young doctor. Fate and tragedy intertwine in this stunning and powerful portrait of a country in the aftermath of a decade of civil war.
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Adrian Lockheart is a psychologist escaping his life in England. Arriving in Freetown in the wake of civil war, he struggles with the intensity of the heat, dirt and dust, and with the secrets this country hides. Despite the gulf of experience and understanding between them, Adrian finds unexpected friendship in a young surgeon at the hospital, the charismatic Kai Mansaray, and begins to build a new life. In the hospital Adrian encounters an elderly man, Elias Cole, who is reflecting on his past, not all of it noble. Recorded in a series of notebooks are memories of his youth, the optimism of the first moon landings, and the details of an obsession: Saffia, a woman he loved, and Julius, her fiery, rebellious husband. As their individual stories entwine across two generations in a country torn apart by repression and war, some distances cannot be bridged. It is the story of four lives colliding; a story about friendship, about understanding, absolution and the indelible effects of the past; about journeys and dreams and loss, and about the very nature of love.… (more)

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