Memory of Love

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.

Did you have a better opinion of this book than I did? Does reading on vacation make you read better or worse?

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