“Claire had always wanted to write a book. She first meets Greg, a builder, when she hires him to convert her loft into a writing room. They fall in love, marry, and have a daughter. But Claire’s subsequent diagnosis begins to erode their happiness.”
This book is hugely loving, devastatingly sad, and yet oddly hopeful. It’s suffused with the care and love families can feel for each other when they are facing the worst tragedy. Claire’s fate is irreversible, her disease is terminal. Yet the surprise twist at the end is joyous.
My own mother recently died of Alzheimer’s aged 82. As every affected relative knows, dementia is a dreadful affliction. But at least when your loved one is elderly, you can accept their life has been lived; their goals achieved. Imagine, then, how it must feel to lose a young life to dementia; a woman whose children are still un-grown, children she will never see marry, or bear babies of their own.
And imagine the tragedy of a strong, loving marriage to a virile, passionate man, who must watch his young wife claimed by a disease which robs her of her mind, and eventually her very existence.
Claire had always wanted to write a book. She first meets Greg, a builder, when she hires him to convert her loft into a writing room. They fall in love, marry, and have a daughter. But Claire’s subsequent diagnosis begins to erode their happiness. Her favourite colour is red, and Greg buys her a red notebook to record her memories. So her ambition to be a writer is fulfilled, albeit in a diminished way.
Many families find it all but impossible to cope with dementia, and Claire’s family is no different. And yet in the end, they triumph, and that triumph is rooted in their love for each other.
There is no doubt this book is a tear-jerker. But it’s also a metaphor for how love can transform a family tragedy.
“Throughout, Claire’s memory and grasp of reality wavers alarmingly. Sometimes she is well, sometimes she is a lost soul. Sometimes she knows exactly where she is, but at others she can’t even find her house in her own street.”
The Memory Book is about the unthinkable.
Claire, only in her forties, is already suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s. She’s married to Greg, with whom she has a young daughter, Esther, together with a teenage girl from a previous relationship, Caitlin.
Their life seems very happy but right from the start of The Memory Book there are hints of the devastating illness which will strip Claire’s memory and self-awareness away from her.
Throughout, Claire’s memory and grasp of reality wavers alarmingly. Sometimes she is well, sometimes she is a lost soul. Sometimes she knows exactly where she is, but at others she can’t even find her house in her own street. The strong thread which weaves the book together and makes the reader keep rooting for Claire is family love.
Her husband, Greg, is a paragon of strength and affection. Her children, Caitlin, who knows what is happening to Claire, copes with devotion and practicality; her little daughter Esther gets exasperated with mummy’s forgetfulness, but also finds in her the loving playfulness of another child. And Ruth, Claire’s mum, a woman who has already watched her husband die from the same disease, feels grief and despair at her daughter’s decline, yet is determined to make the best of things; to make Claire feel loved and her children protected.
The dramatic tension of this tender, inspirational book comes from Claire’s sudden infatuation with another man, whom she meets at a local café and falls deeply in love with. In her confused state she is only happy when he tells her how much he loves and needs her. But who is he? And what will happen if she forgets her family and goes off with him?
Here are a selection of the reviews for The Memory Book
“Heartbreakingly good stuff – just be sure to stock up on tissues”
The Sun on Sunday
“The Memory Book is warm, sad, and life-affirming, with an unforgettable heroine who will make you laugh and cry. It’s a tender book about treasuring the past and living fully in the present; you’ll finish it and immediately go give your loved ones a hug”