The Memory of Love by Linda Olsson
Published by Penguin
Review copy received at SIBA 2012
Linda Olsson’s third novel centers on a fifty-year-old woman named Marion Flint. Marion resides in a small, quiet town off the coast of New Zealand and lives a very solitary life that for the past fifteen years has given her the opportunity to keep her past shut away inside her mind, to never talk about it or even reflect on it to herself. But one day she meets a young boy, Ika, and she’s compelled to help him – she feels a connection with him unlike anything she’s felt in years. She becomes almost like a mother to Ika and this relationship forces memories from her past to the surface of her consciousness, making her examine her life and finally heal from all the brokenness in her heart.
I really loved Olsson’s first two novels and she definitely did not disappoint me with The Memory of Love. I’m not going to lie, Marion was a difficult character to get to know at first. She is a solitary person with no friends or family, and even though the reader is allowed inside her head, she isn’t all that likable a person. She’s prickly and as her past is revealed slowly, in memories, the reader doesn’t really know her very well until the very end of the book. It isn’t until she meets Ika, and later when she discovers how truly awful his life is, that she opens up her heart and shows the reader how genuinely kind and loving she can be.
Olsson’s writing is absolutely beautiful, her prose is some of my favorite that I’ve ever read. She says so much with so few pages and she creates stunning imagery with her words. She was able to make this character who I didn’t even like come alive before my eyes and transform into a woman I rooted for and truly enjoyed reading about by the end of the novel.
The subject matter in this book is pretty brutal, to be honest. Ika’s life is really, really difficult for a little kid and once Marion’s past is revealed, it’s clear that her life was pretty horrible too. It is no wonder that these two characters connected on such a deep, instinctual level – Marion saw in Ika all the pain that she suffered growing up and wanted desperately to shield him from having to go through the same stuff. It was heartbreaking to read but also there was such redemption when Marion finally faces her past and does right for Ika.
The Memory of Love is a gorgeous novel. Although the book is short, it packs an emotional punch, and the writing is not to be missed. I highly recommend all of Olsson’s books but there’s a chance this might be my favorite yet.