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The Map of Lost Memories: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 21, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Kim Fay on The Map of Lost Memories

Kim Fay

The Map of Lost Memories holds a special place in my heart. When I was a child, my grandfather lived with my family, and at night he would sit on the side of my bed and tell me stories about his life as a sailor in Asia in the 1930s. Together we would pore over his photos, most of which were of Shanghai and showed an exotic world of rickshaws and sampans against a backdrop of majestic European buildings.

As I grew up, my fascination with Asia simmered within me until I graduated from college and made my first trip. I was smitten by the sodden heat, the smell of incense and jasmine down hidden lanes, and the magical combination of foreignness and familiarity. I continued to return to that part of the world until finally I moved to Vietnam. It was there that I read about Andre and Clara Malraux, a French couple who looted a Cambodian temple in the 1920s to raise money for the Communist party. With that, the first glimmer of my novel appeared.

In the following years, surrounded by the remnants of French colonialism, I could not stop thinking about the Westerners who came to Asia to claim a piece of it for themselves. I began to research every bit of information available on the history of illicit art collecting at the beginning of the twentieth century. I traveled to Shanghai to trace the stories my grandfather once told me. And I went to Angkor Wat. I had read so much about this temple and thought about it for such a long time, and still its grandeur stunned me.

Shaped by all of these experiences and my great passion for Asia, The Map of Lost Memories is both an adventure novel and a time capsule.

Gramps' photo of Shanghai

One of my gramps' photos of Shanghai that inspired The Map of Lost Memories

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Khmer temple

An abandoned Khmer temple in the jungles of Cambodia in the 1920s

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Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple

A deserted hallway in Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple in the 1920s

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Praise for The Map of Lost Memories

"Fay’s exciting and exotic historical adventure set in the 1920s Far East draws easy comparison to Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. The plot is original, and the characters are smart."—Library Journal

“[The Map of Lost Memories] has qualities any reader would wish for: adventure, romance, history and a vividly described exotic setting … There is something captivating about this novel. Call it authorial confidence, a sense of place, a splendid technicolor … The Map of Lost Memories has one beautifully met purpose: It brings Cambodia alive.” The Washington Post

"Fay’s extraordinary first novel has everything great historical adventure fiction should—strikingly original setting, exhilarating plot twists, and a near-impossible quest . . . Every word of this evocative literary expedition feels deliberately chosen, each phrase full of meaning." Booklist, (starred review)
"Thrilling and ambitious, this is a book to get lost in, a book that homes in on the human drama of the quest and never lets go. A rich debut." —BookPage
"[The Map of Lost Memories] is a thrilling mix of adventure and personal discovery set in Southeast Asia in the 1920s . . . Fay crafts an intricate page-turner that will keep readers breathless and guessing." —Publishers Weekly

"Fay’s debut is intriguing, beautifully written, colorful and multilayered like a lovely tapestry."—Romantic Times

“In The Map of Lost Memories, Kim Fay draws us into a universe as exotic, intense, and historically detailed as the ancient artifacts her unforgettable heroine seeks. It’s a deliciously unexpected journey: Indiana Jones meets Somerset Maugham meets Marguerite Duras; all culminating in a glorious traipse through a forgotten Asian world. This novel will stay with me for a long, long time.”—Jennifer Cody Epstein, author of The Painter from Shanghai
“Kim Fay’s engaging debut novel, The Map of Lost Memories, not only weaves together a smart, compelling story of a quest for scrolls believed to contain the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer Empire, but also gives us a glimpse into 1920’s China and Indochina during the time of transition from colonialism to the beginnings of communism. With deftness and clarity, Fay brings her world to life and gives us a captivating read.”—Gail Tsukiyama, author of A Hundred Flowers

“In The Map of Lost Memories, Fay updates the archaeological adventure tale with an ambitious heroine and a cast of morally ambiguous characters in a race to discover an ancient temple in the jungles of colonial Cambodia. Fay's assured, absorbing prose will compel readers with its lush detail, multiple plot twists and keen insight into this politically combustible period of history.”—Aimee Phan, author of The Reeducation of Cherry Truong
“Kim Fay breathes new and original life into the Westerner-in-Asia novel with The Map of Lost Memories, going beyond the intrigues of 1925 Shanghai to the remote reaches of the Cambodian jungle. An enchanting, absorbing first novel, all the more remarkable for its effortless portrayal of a bygone world, now nearly forgotten.”—Nicole Mones, author of Lost in Translation
The Map of Lost Memories is the best book I have read this year. Exotic, thrilling, and brimming with fascinating historical detail, it had me hooked from page one and sent me to a world I knew existed but never really understood, never really felt, until now. Kim Fay is a wonderful storyteller who truly masters the art of crafting a riveting story with heart and elegance. The result is utterly mesmerizing.”—Anne Fortier, author of Juliet
“Kim Fay writes with such mesmerizing authority that it’s hard to believe that The Map of Lost Memories is her first novel. Rarely do we find a book that combines gripping adventure with exquisitely crafted prose, but Fay’s novel does just that, bringing together the beauty and complexity of Marguerite Duras’s The Lover with the thrilling breathlessness of Indiana Jones. The result is breathtaking.”—Dana Sachs, author of If You Lived Here


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (August 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345531345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345531346
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,486,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By The Tao of Netflix VINE VOICE on July 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book was a pleasure to read. It didn't, however, fully meet my expectations from the book description, so let me provide a brief overview so you can decide if it aligns to your particular reading interest. First and foremost, this is a character book more than it is an adventure book. The official description led me to expect a full-out, fast moving adventure in 1930s Southeastern Asia. It includes that, but not in the way conventional adventure books provide. Yes, there is an adventure as the protagonist searches for specific Cambodian relics, and the adventure is entertaining. There's sufficient amounts of intrigue, exotic locales and historical infusion to make the adventure fun. But the focus is much more on the characters than the adventure, the consequence of which is a dramatically slower pace than would be expected for an adventure novel. For example, the actual adventure didn't fully begin until at least 1/2 way through the book; this is a major indicator of the focus. Nonetheless, the character aspect of this story is outstanding, with individual, palapable characters jumping off the pages. Many of the characters are particularly interesting members of the immediately pre-Mao revolution days in China, so the reader gets an interesting perspective of the political atmosphere at that time. More than anything, though, the book tells the story of a younger lady who comes to Shanghai, and then to Cambodia in search of lost scrolls described in an old manuscript her father left her.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
From Seattle to Shanghai was a long journey in 1925, especially for an unaccompanied woman. But Irene Blum travels in a world of art trafficking on a mammoth scale. For her the globe is studded with treasures to be bought and sold, the crown jewels of the deposed Russian tsar, a ring that was the Empress Cixi's prized possession, paintings fit for the collection of a Rockefeller, and most of all, the newly discovered glories of Cambodia's Angkor Wat.

"A woman with a calling, now that is a thing of beauty," is how one of Irene's oldest friends describes her, but Irene's calling has turned to an obsession, a means of revenge. Passed over for a coveted position at the museum she has made into a showcase for Asian art in favor of a man with little experience, Irene is out to find a key to the forgotten history of the Khmer Empire, something that nobody else knows about--a set of copper scrolls hidden in the farthest reaches of Cambodia. With these in her possession, Irene will have a place in any museum she chooses and a secure spot in the only world that matters to her.

Irene's mentor, a man who has fostered her interest in Khmer art, has sent her to Shanghai to enlist the assistance of Simone Merlin, a woman who grew up among the Angkorean temples and knows them as few others do. Now married to a man who is devoted to Communist revolution, Simone is reluctant to return to the world she knew and loved, especially since her husband is both possessive and violent.

So begins a story of adventure and mystery, one that is neither predictable nor ordinary.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Set in 1925, this sophisticated, character-rich adventure begins in the Pacific Northwest, but most of the action takes place in the politically charged city of Shanghai and dense, steamy jungles of Cambodia, home of the ancient Khmer empire. Irene Blum is sure she is going to be put in charge of the Seattle museum she felt owed its success to her resolute, behind the scenes and not always legal acquisitions work, but a man with a degree is chosen in her place. Determined to prove her worth, she sets off for Southeast Asia on a quest to find a set of scrolls believed to chronicle the forgotten history of the Khmer civilization.

Irene's mentor and sponsor Henry Simms is dying and she's driven to find the scrolls quickly while he can still enjoy the discovery. Guided by him Irene puts together an expedition team, including her enigmatic new lover, a drug addicted revolutionary and a renowned Khmer researcher, but long before they begin the arduous trek into the jungle in search of the forgotten temple said to contain the scrolls, it's clear the conflicting motivations of the team could lead to violence. While Irene wants to take the scrolls to the United States to set up a new museum she can curate, others want them to be left alone, or kept in Cambodia to be studied there, or sold to finance anti-colonial groups working to overthrow the French.

Besides having an exciting story, The Map of Lost Memories is more substantial than some other thrillers I've read, exploring the inner motivations of its multi-dimensional characters and immersing the reader in the diverse culture, transitioning politics and exotic landscapes of 1920's Southeast Asia.
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