Tuesday, February 01, 2011
REVIEW: My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares
From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, inspired, magical book-a love story that lasts more than a lifetime.
Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. Daniel has "the memory", the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he's previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.
Interwoven through Sophia and Daniel's unfolding present day relationship are glimpses of their expansive history together. From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes torturous path of seeking each other time and time again. But just when young Sophia (now "Lucy" in the present) finally begins to awaken to the secret of their shared past, to understand the true reason for the strength of their attraction, the mysterious force that has always torn them apart reappears. Ultimately, they must come to understand what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.
A magical, suspenseful, heartbreaking story of true love, My Name is Memory proves the power and endurance of a union that was meant to be.
A huge thank you to Hodder for sending me a copy of this book to review. Many blogs that I read raved about My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares last year after the book was published in America. I was urged to read it again and again and always put it off, worried that I wouldn't like it. I do struggle at times with love stories that seem to suggest that two are soul mates and have this huge emotional connection in previous lives but with no evidence to support that in THIS life. Most of my reservations came from the many comparisons to the Fallen series by Lauren Kate. All my fears were ungrounded as I ended up loving this one. For the most part, but I shall get to that soon.
My Name is Memory is a beautifully written love story. It's main characters are Daniel and Sophia. Daniel has a special gift of remembering his past lives, the details and characters that he's met stay with him, even after he's died and reborn in another body in a different place. After many different encounters with the same woman, he eventually falls in love with Sophia but their love never happens at the right time. Other people and circumstances get in the way and Daniel is forced to search for her and love Sophia over centuries without ever properly spending very much time with her. Sophia, however, born in this book with the name 'Lucy' does not remember Daniel.
This books tell the story in two parts. The first, Lucy and Daniel's relationship in the present as two awkward high school students that seem drawn to each other but never really connect in any meaningful way. After a disastrous meeting at a school dance, the two part and go seperately on with their lives, but each carrying with them lingering thoughts of the other. This is told entirely from Lucy's perspective as she struggles to understand the incredible things that Daniel has told her. I like how she has the strength and support of her best friend here to lean on, as well as other hobbies and interests. It's always nice to see in a love story like this that there's more to the female lead than just her love interest.
The second part, is Daniel's memories of his previous lives. These were by far my favourite parts of the story. Daniel has such a poetic way of bringing us his story, the detail that is remembered is fascinating. From the 6th Century to the present, he is lived to tell some hugely interesting stories. From working on a ship at sea to the poor living conditions of some time periods to the relationships and the people that he's encountered over time. Along with his gift of 'the memory' Daniel is also able to recognise souls. He can see when the same souls populate his life and that of others. Mistakes along the way, huge life-changing events have meant that there is someone out there after Daniel, after Sophia...
I can understand the reviews that I read that complained of this one being a little on the slow side. As Daniel is telling us his story, there isn't a great deal of plot moving the story forward for Lucy. I didn't mind, I thought it was all incredibly interesting and I was riveted by Daniel's voice and his experiences. Though not a huge fan of historical fiction, I thought My Name is Memory had enough historical detail to be very captivating. I love the wisdom that Daniel learns from re-living his lives through these memories. He's had a great deal of time to reflect on his own actions and behaviours and is able to see a little more clearly his mistakes and what he values. Despite being so focused on finding Sophia and sacrificing everything that he has in order to be with her, there are many other people in his life and it takes Daniel a very long time to see the value and worth in the other people that populate his world.
But it is primarily a love story. I loved the near-misses between Daniel and Sophia over time and with Daniel and Lucy in the present. There is a feeling that these two really should be together and up until now they've been only snatches of time spent together. Death, illness, drastic differences in age and circumstance means that the two have spent many lifetimes searching for that opportunity to be happy and in love together.
I have just the two minor complaints for this book. The first is that it is slightly too long, Daniel's story of the past and Lucy's hunt for answers drags slightly towards the big finale. And the second is the ending. It's an ending that has already enraged many people, myself included, but don't fear! This is only the first book in a trilogy - no news yet on the second book, but it makes me happy knowing that the story of Daniel and Lucy is not finished just yet.