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Mister Memory: A Novel Hardcover – March 7, 2017
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“A historical thriller that will not be easy for readers to forget.” (Bookreporter)
“A fascinating look at the power of the human mind to solve problems both internal and external, set in one of the most important, progressive periods of modern history. Sedgwick pays tribute to Belle Epoque Paris with a tale that is lovingly aware of its setting, which is perhaps the only time and place that a crime this complex, with characters this bizarre and compelling, could have been both perpetrated and ultimately solved.” (Criminal Element)
“A memorable book for many reasons; including an ending that Despres and his prodigious mind deserve.” (Mystery Scene)
“Fin de siècle Paris provides the backdrop for this outstanding thriller from Sedgwick, who creates a sense of intimacy with the reader through darkly humorous omniscient narration reminiscent of Dumas. Sedgwick thoughtfully explores fundamental questions about the relationship of memory and identity.” (Publishers Weekly (starred))
“Young-adult novelist Sedgwick returns to Paris in his second book for adults, this time to La Belle Epoque, weaving murder and memory into an intense thriller. Beautifully woven. Characters are shaped subtly but colorfully. The narrative voice has an old-fashioned address-the-reader aura. Marvelously imagined and sure to appeal to readers who enjoy an intelligent thriller.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Marcus Sedgwick is a prolific author of YA novels, which shows in his simple, direct language, fast pace and eventful plot. It does not deter him from opening up profound existential themes. A thriller that makes you think.” (Historical Novel Society)
About the Author
Marcus Sedgwick is a critically appraised author of YA fiction. Mister Memory is his second novel for adults, following A Love Like Blood. His books have been shortlisted for over thirty awards, including the Carnegie Medal (five times), the Edgar Allan Poe Award (twice) and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize (four times). He won the Branford Boase award for his debut novel, Floodland, and the Booktrust Teenage Prize for My Swordhand is Singing
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Top Customer Reviews
The “Mister Memory” of the novel’s title is Marcel Després. Born in a small town, he came to Paris as a young man and, unable to keep any ordinary job, took employment at the so-called Cabaret of Insults, thanks to his most peculiar talent. Marcel is blessed --- or perhaps cursed --- with the ability to remember in prodigious detail every moment of his life, from before he was born. No mere parlor trick, Marcel’s talent enables him to remember whole sequences of numbers or the entire contents of a spice cabinet, after a mere glance to absorb what he’s seeing.
So when --- after what appears to be a jealousy-fueled rage that results in the death of his young wife --- Marcel essentially turns himself in to the police, he is, of course, completely unable to forget not only his crime but also everything that led up to it. But he’s not talking, which may be the reason he lands not in prison but in a mental hospital. Or is it?
The young investigator assigned to the case, Inspector Petit, probably could just sweep the case under the rug. Marcel seems unlikely to kill again, after all, and in Paris in 1899, there’s always another violent crime to solve. But something about the case seems a little off to Petit, and when he finds a provocative photograph of Marcel’s dead wife, Ondine, he sets off to learn what really happened to bring those three people together in that small studio that fateful day.
MISTER MEMORY is suffused with the milieu and language of Belle Epoque Paris, from the old-fashioned narration style and chapter headings (“What the Camera Saw”) to intriguing descriptions of 19th-century pornography catalogued at the so-called Library of Hell.
Sedgwick’s novel, however, also brings to bear many theories of memory and of the mind that remain fascinating and relevant more than a hundred years after the story’s setting. What is the difference between truth and perception? What role does memory play in our understanding of the past and our ability to conceptualize a future? And, most importantly, what is the relationship between memory and identity? “All that we are is an assembly of a sequence of memories,” remarks the alienist who treats Marcel and becomes increasingly invested in his case. “And if they are merely a sequence of individual, discrete events, then how can we create a single continuous self from them?”
These considerations, both philosophical and scientific, make MISTER MEMORY a historical thriller that will not be easy for readers to forget.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl