I burst into tears and cried for about 30 minutes after I finished The Memory of Love. I felt like I had closed the chapter on a long emotional journey, which had not been mine, but in which I had invested part of me, inserting myself into the lives of the characters without their knowledge, a fly on the wall so to speak.
It took me a while to get into the book, but not in the way that I would get bored or find it laborious. On the contrary, I fell in love with Aminatta Forna’s writing pretty much immediately, and loved how she set the foundations for an epic story spanning decades and people and narratives. It was more because there is so much information to process at first, the different times, stories, and people, that I felt I needed time to ingest it all before moving on. Some books make you want to devour them, others savor their progress, and The Memory of Love was one of the latter.
The Memory of Love is the stories of Elias Cole, as an older, dying man recounting his youth, Adrian Lockheart, a British psychologist who is working in Sierra Leone, and Kai Mansaray, a surgeon in the hospital where Adrian also works, and where Elias resides. It is also the story of the women they love: Saffia, Mamakay, and Tejani, and how all of their lives are tightly linked. The storylines are set in times of unrest, coups, and civil war, where the entire population has to learn to survive amongst atrocities, and then in contemporary Sierra Leone, where a certain peace resides.
Love and the survival of love are important themes, and general survival is another one, as well as the different elements of PTSD, and how it can effect anyone, even years after they have witnessed or survived war, genocide, atrocities. And then there is also the theme of belonging, one that is always so dear to my heart.
This is the 14th book in my #ReadAfrica2018 (soon to become #ReadAfrica2019) challenge, and while Aminatta Forna was born in the UK, her father was from Sierra Leone and she also spent time there and was directly affected by the unrest and war. While the book is set in Sierra Leone and there are some intense passages relating to the civil war, I love how the narrative focuses mainly on everyday people, survivors, love, and courage, as well as other less remarkable, but very human, traits such as jealousy, betrayal and denial.
I think I have discovered a new favorite author in the vein of how I feel about Marge Piercy’s work. I’m very excited to read more of Aminatta Forna’s work.
“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.”