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Memory Of Love by Aminatta Forna
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Memory Of Love (edition 2010)

by Aminatta Forna

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
381None28,201 (4.08)2 / 316
Member:vancouverdeb
Title:Memory Of Love
Authors:Aminatta Forna
Info:Atlantic Monthly Press (2010), Hardcover, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
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 32 (next | show all)
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. ( )
1 vote LisaMaria_C | Aug 10, 2013 |
This book has been amazing so far... ( )
  ageoflibrarius | Jun 27, 2013 |
The storyline is amply available here on GR so I'll focus my comments on the writing style. Overall, the story is interesting and has several clever twists and connections (inter-connections to be more accurate). The tone is measured...extremely measured to the extent that I felt the book was somehow emotionally unavailable. And although the writing is largely flawless and at times teetering on lyrical, its ability to move me, to draw me in, did not occur. ( )
1 vote ming.l | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
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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Epigraph
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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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Book description
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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