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The Memory of Love Hardcover – January 4, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119650
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Forma, recipient of a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Ancestor Stones, returns to Africa's troubled conscience in this admirable if uneven outing. Adrian Lockheart is a well-meaning English psychologist who embarks on a temporary post at a Sierra Leone hospital intending to modernize treatment of the long-neglected schizophrenics, transients, and scarred victims of civil war who walk the hospital grounds. He soon meets his match in the elderly ex-professor Elias Cole, who speaks eloquently of his country's turbulent history--and also of his passion for the wife of a more radically minded colleague whose eventual disappearance Cole may be implicated in. As the holes in Elias's story widen, Adrian falls for a patient's daughter and into conflict with a surgeon, and ripples from the unexamined past threaten the present. Yet Forma's material doesn't measure up to the book's length. The book's prolixity, combined with scenes that drag or come off as forced, certainly doesn't ruin the experience, but it does occasionally glut what amounts to a heartening cry for moral responsibility in the thick of maddening injustice. (Jan.) (c)
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From Booklist

Set in Sierra Leone at the turn of the twenty-first century, Forna’s absorbing second novel (after Ancestor Stones, 2006) revolves around three very different men. British psychiatrist Adrian Lockheart has fled his failing marriage in England in the hopes of doing some good in Sierra Leone. Adrian becomes fascinated by two of his patients, elderly Elias Cole, a former university professor, and Agnes, a woman lost in a fugue state. The dying Cole reveals to Adrian, Scheherazade-like, how he fell in love with a radical colleague’s wife in the late 1960s, while Adrian must piece together the details of Agnes’ life. Adrian finds a friend in a haunted young surgeon, Kai, who is contemplating leaving the country. Kai questions some of Adrian’s risky decisions, such as his intention to track Agnes down once she leaves the hospital, but it is Adrian’s involvement with a local woman from Kai’s past that shocks the young doctor. Fate and tragedy intertwine in this stunning and powerful portrait of a country in the aftermath of a decade of civil war. --Kristine Huntley

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 33 customer reviews
It's just a great story, and I found it very moving with a terrific resolution and denouement.
sb-lynn
Adrian falls in love with a local woman, whose ties to the other major characters provide a tension to and deeper understanding of their stories.
Darryl R. Morris
I was completely mesmerized by Forna's storytelling and her use of language in this beautiful novel.
Sheila J Hyde

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Incalculable grief cleaves to profound love in this elaborate, helical tapestry of a besieged people in postwar Freetown, Sierra Leone. Interlacing two primary periods of violent upheaval, author Aminatta Forna renders a scarred nation of people with astonishing grace and poise--an unforgettable portrait of open wounds and closed mouths, of broken hearts and fractured spirits, woven into a stunning evocation of recurrence and redemption, loss and tender reconciliation. Forna mines a filament of hope from resigned fatalism, from the devastation of a civil war that claimed 50,000 lives and displaced 2.5 million people. Those that survived felt hollowed out, living with an uneasy peace.

Over 99% of people suffered from unrelieved post-traumatic stress disorder, and those that survived often hid shameful secrets of forced betrayal. Here you have children, now adults, trying to cope after their brutal coercion with rebel soldiers. They are living with the aftermath of "nothing left to lose." If you can imagine an unspeakable atrocity, it was likely executed. Blood on the hands of the people who remain seep into the pores of the newly arrived.

Three principal characters form the locus of this story--a psychologist, a surgeon, and an academic. The story goes through seamless temporal shifts--from 1969, a period of unrest following a military coup--to 2001, following ten years of civil war begun in 1991.

Adrian Lockheart is a British psychologist on sabbatical from his failing marriage to accept a (second) post in Freetown. He is compassionate and dogged in his pursuit to treat the population of mentally disturbed and traumatized citizens, to help them find hope and resolve, yet he feels emotionally dislocated from his own family at home.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By sb-lynn TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

This story takes place in the African nation of Sierra Leone and takes place over a period of time starting in the late 1960's. One of the main characters is Elias Cole, an ambitious British professor who strives to become both published and respected. He finds himself friends of sorts with a man named Julius - also a fellow professor who is both popular with his students has a beautiful wife named Saffia. Elias becomes obsessed with Saffia at first sight, and his jealousy and mixed in with some affection for Julius become a central part of the story.

The other main characters in this novel are a British man named Adrian who has come to Sierra Leone to work as a psychologist in a local hospital. Adrian is married and has a child still in England, but he is obviously dissatisfied with his work there and with his marriage, and feels the need to matter and feel some passion about what he does. The other central figure in this story is a native born doctor named Kai Manseray, who is an extremely bright and dedicated surgeon. Kei and Adrian become friends, when Kei starts staying at Adrian's home on occasions to sleep and make meals.

The chapters alternate and we go back and forth in time, with alternating narrators and stories. We are taken through these incredibly turbulent and disturbing years in Sierra Leone, with all its violence and horror suffered by the people due to war and government instability. In fact at one point Adrian is told that most everyone in the country has post-traumatic stress syndrome - and their mental hospitals are filled with many such damaged individuals.

More than just a story about these characters, this is also a story about Sierra Leone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Where to start, in praise of this amazing book? Perhaps from the fact that Aminatta Forna, a woman, writes a novel where all three major characters are men, inhabiting their minds so naturally that it was not until almost the end that I stopped to wonder at it. Not that her writing is devoid of the female presence; the title of the book is well-chosen. Whatever else it is, the novel is threaded through with love stories, or rather, in most cases, the memories of love. I thought more than once of Gabriel García Márquez and LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA; Forna has a similar ability to tie a historical theme of great scope to the lives of a few individuals, shown in all their telling detail.

It would do no harm to look up the history of Sierra Leone, where most of the novel takes place, from the late 1960s into the present century, though eventually the main facts will emerge. The details are unimportant, but the pattern will be familiar enough: independence from Great Britain, a period of relative stability broken by recurrent coups, descent to one-party dictatorship, and eventually violent civil war fought by child soldiers high on drugs. The worst of these is over by the time the book opens, around 2000, but the scars and memories remain. The country seems gripped in a fatalism that one character describes in the phrase "I fall down, I get up" -- fatalism tempered with a basic human resilience.

Kai Mansaray, a young surgeon, has had to deal with the physical wounds all through the war, limbs cleaved by machetes chief among them.
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