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In the Memorial Room: A Novel Hardcover – December 10, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This short, funny and often beautifully written novel — completed in the early 1970s but just now being published — provides an excellent occasion for remembering the weird wisdom and genuine talent of Janet Frame."—Scott Bradfield, The New York Times, Sunday Book Review

"[T]his book is marvelous experimental fiction…Frame’s sentences are marvels, winding like narrow alleys through hill towns: They open spectacular vistas…Brilliant."—Kirkus, Starred Review

"[T]he story is also a beautifully crafted artistic and philosophical creation that explores the nature of communication and exposes Frame’s love of language…this is a terrific introduction to an original writer who deserves her own serious league of fans. Recommended for all fiction collections."—Library Journal

About the Author

Janet Frame is one of New Zealand’s greatest writers. Born in Dunedin in 1924, she published twenty-one books in her lifetime and several posthumously. Her autobiographical work An Angel at My Table was made into a television series by Jane Campion in 1990. Janet Frame died in 2004.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (December 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1619021757
  • ISBN-13: 978-1619021754
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,674,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Sullivan on October 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This is the posthumous publication of a book written forty years ago in 1973. Janet Frame did not allow publication of this roman a clef novel as she was worried that the people of the city Menton in France, where the book is set, may have recognized themselves and taken offence.
Like Janet Frame, the novel's protagonist Harry Gill, is awarded a fellowship. The fellowship, Janet's and Harrys, allows them to live and work for six months in the city of Menton on the Cote d'Azur. While Janet received the Katherine Mansfield fellowship, Harry is awarded the fictitious Margaret Rose Hurndell fellowship.
In this epistolary novel Harry Gill is a self loathing, self-pitying psychosomatic novelist. He has written two historical novels which have been fairly well received but Harry now wants to write something completely different in an attempt to be taken more seriously. He is attempting to write a picaresque novel which is in complete contrast to how he perceives himself;

"dull personality, almost humdrum, a plodder from day to day"

In the memorial Room has no conventional plot line. Much of the novel is a stream of consciousness and as such could be seen by many as a difficult read. But this is not a negative criticism. Why should all novels be as dumb, asinine and empty as the Fifty Shades series of books? (see my review of Fifty Shades of Grey on this site) Janet Frame's novel will stay in the memory long after Fifty Shades has receded to that dark space at the back of the memory's filing cabinet.
Her novel is a beautiful, rich, dark essay on the human psyche.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lori George Alexander on December 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I realize that many readers did not care for this book, but I loved it. I am now reading other works by this important writer from New Zealand. I don't know how it happened that I miss Janet Frame in my reading but I did. This book was written but it was not to be released into after her death. It is loosely based in her experiences being a Katherine Mansfield fellow in France. Some people thought the ending was not good and confusing. I did not find it as such but went well with the entire book. I am so glad I happened on this book by reading a review of it in the New York Times Book Review. I am reading other works and enjoying them as well. I could not recommend it more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Elka Gimpel on September 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Published posthumously and based on her experience in France as a Katherine Mansfield fellowship winner, Janet Frame's In The Memorial Room is part roman à clef and part satire.

In the 1970s Harry Gill wins a memorial fellowship and heads to France to spend the year working on his next novel. Incredibly insecure, he begins suffering from psychosomatic illnesses. When Harry's eyes start hurting, his doctor tells him he suffers from incipient signs of intentional invisibility, or he's about to vanish. He returns to the doctor when his hearing fails and is diagnosed with Auditory Hibernation: "You are at the point of bisection of circumstances, opportunity, characters, time; everything is favorable to your obliteration. You have been stifled, muffled, silenced. You cannot cry out because you cannot hear the cry of others."

In the Memorial Room had humorously scathing indictments of literary snobs, the pretentious and those obsessed with the worship of the dead at the expense of the living. The idea of people being so assured they're destined for great things that they never actually get around to doing great things and the absurdity of human character and motivation were all funny and well done.

Unfortunately, I found this book tepid. Harry Gill was just too weakly drawn to carry the story for me. I had to reread the ending to make any sense of it, which was probably because I was apathetic and not really paying attention. It had humor, absurdity, social commentary and the writing was stellar-all ingredients for a book that I was sure I'd love, but I just wasn't invested in any of the characters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Susan Drees on November 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In the Memorial Room is a sly, witty, blackly humorous tale of Harry Gill, a 33 year old New Zealander, writer of historical fiction (whose books have actually sold) who has been awarded the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship in honor of the deceased poet, Margaret Rose Hurndell. With the Fellowship comes a six month sabbatical in Menton, France, once home to the poet and the site of the Memorial Room. Unknown to Gill, this room, in spite of its title, is open to the elements, has no electricity, no facilities but must be visited regularly as part of the Fellowship.

Janet Frame requested this book be published posthumously as she also went to Menton...as a Katherine Mansfield Fellow. What she created in this novel is a satirical picture of family and friends living off of memories of the famous dead. Time and language and their place and use are major constructs in the story and in the individuals' lives. Harry has wandered into a land of the past.

In speaking to the reader about the Memorial Room itself, Harry states: "Here, I thought, if one were a spirit or dead, is a sanctuary." or "A unique memorial, to pay a writer to work within a tomb."

In describing the lives of those who are seeing to his needs and to the memory of Rose, primarily relocated English or New Zealanders, he reports: "Menton is a city of innumerable retirement dreams quietly being wrecked by reality." (p 75)

There is much to enjoy here, much that is also confusing, entertaining, a bit bizarre at times, as Harry tries to unlock his writing and his place in Menton and among these people. One can only imagine what it must have been like for Frame during her stay to result in her writing In the Memorial Room.

Recommended for all who enjoy novels about writing, language, and books with sly wit.

Ebook received from publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.
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