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Memory Of Love by Aminatta Forna

Memory Of Love (edition 2010)

by Aminatta Forna

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4243424,938 (4.06)2 / 340
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 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
    A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (sylco)
  3. 00
    Ancestor Stones by Aminatta Forna (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Forna's first book about the civil war, told by four women.
  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.

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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
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 |
This story is set set in Serra Leone, a country in Western Africa, which is plagued by military coups and civil war. It's is story of three men, two citizens of Serra Leone and one British. These men are intellectuals a professor, a doctor and a psychologist. Each of them had their lives directly or indirectly influenced by the wars and each is trying to deal with it. Each of these men experience love and disappointment.

The language is beautiful and the narrative is very picturesque. The author captures emotions and situations well. The stories go in circles but you are not in this for the story, you are here for the feel of the place and the people. After all this is literary fiction. ( )
  mausergem | Apr 8, 2014 |
A powerful novel about friendship, betrayal, and love in the violence of post-colonial Sierra Leone. One of the best novels I have read this year.

Aminatta Forma is the daughter of a Scottish mother and a father from Sierra Leone. She grew up in the African country where her father was a physician and opposition political leader. When she was ten, he was taken from their home and executed as a traitor. As an adult she returned to the country and wrote about him and her own experiences trying to learn more about his death. Her personal understanding of life in a fragile post-colonial nation grounds this novel.

Read more on my blog, Me, you and books: http://wp.me/p24OK2-Tx
  mdbrady | Aug 12, 2013 |
I just couldn't get into the story or the characters. I think part of the reason was the clogging sensory detail. Often you don't have enough--I've even heard an editor say that density of sensory detail is what separates the amateur from the professional, and such details can ground you in a story, and its setting--in this case post-Civil War Sierra Leone. But it seemed as if Forna had to walk us through the day of her characters in excruciating detail, burying us in minutia like this:

Adrian pours Kai a tumbler of whisky. They open with the best of three. Kai wins easily and challenges Adrian again. Adrain, who has watched Kai's strategy closely, has worked out a thing or two, takes the fifth game and sixth as well. They play double colours. Blue and green: Kai. Red and yellow: Adrian. Adrian mixes the whisky with water to stretch it. Kai plays intensely. Adrian is grateful for the company. In the kitchen he finds a packet of chocolate cookies. The cookies are soft and dusty. The chocolate has melted, seeped into the stratum and hardened. They eat the cookies in place of supper, washing the taste away with whisky.

The effect of the details, the jumps in point of views, even that much of it is told in the self-consciously literary present tense, I think all helped in distancing me from the characters and their emotions. And I didn't feel very grounded in the characters, was unsure even after 100 pages who or what was the focus of the novel. I couldn't even get a fix about whether Elias Cole was a native African or expatriot European. Both him and Adrian, who dominate the first 100 pages, felt flat to me. The narrative line up to then felt so meandering, so blah, such a slog to read--and the book is a fat 473 pages. I've read reviews that claim it picks up enormously in the second half--the problem is it lost me long before that. ( )
2 vote LisaMaria_C | Aug 10, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (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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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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