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The Memory by Judith Barrow

March 25, 2020


I normally only review memoirs on this blog, but I’m making an exception for Judith Barrow’s new book, titled The Memory.

I have been a fan of Judith Barrow’s writing for some time. I loved her Howarth family trilogy and also her collection of short stories, Secrets, so when I was asked to read this book for review, I had no hesitation in accepting an ARC.

The Memory is completely different from any of the author’s other novels, but at the same time, it retains the undiluted and unadorned realism of her other books. Irene, the narrator of the story, switches between memories of the past and a long few days in 2002. In every chapter, we follow her in an hourly diary of dealing with the exhausting and sometimes awful reality of her mother’s dementia. The story then reverts to the past and the progress of her childhood and life with and after the death of her beloved Down’s Syndrome sister, Rose.

Throughout the book, Irene’s relationship with her mother is the central theme, a relationship built on both love and hatred, and the bizarre, but poisonous bond that Rose’s loss creates between them. Why this bond is so strong and why Irene cannot and will not consign her mother to a home are revealed as the story progresses.

This is a hugely compelling book, beautifully written with an attention to detail and reality that is quite astonishing. It is tragic, searingly honest and deeply touching too, and the reality of both Downs Syndrome and Dementia are treated with candour and compassion. In the end, though, it is a story of hope and very much love too, as Irene’s relationships with the rest of her family prove.

The Memory is a book that will remain in my own for a very long time. I’m honoured to have been asked to review it.

The link to the book is here

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  1. Many thanks for this lovely review of my book, Val. I am most grateful

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