REVIEW: The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa

Monday, 11 May 2020

REVIEW: The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa banner graphic

To the people on the island, a disappeared thing no longer has any meaning. It can be burned in the garden, thrown in the river or handed over to the Memory Police. Soon enough, the island forgets it ever existed. When a young novelist discovers that her editor is in danger of being taken away by the Memory Police, she desperately wants to save him. For some reason, he doesn’t forget, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for him to hide his memories. Who knows what will vanish next?

I am always up for a remake of 1984. Any time-period, technology, social controls - you give me an oppressive government (loosely or otherwise) based on real life, and I will give you my full attention... Well, I will if the book is what it purports itself to be. And, though initially Yoko Ogawa's The Memory Police followed a much-loved formulae, it very quickly tumbled into something unrecognisable. The novel's first act crested, proud (and as it should be) of a story of Japan and forgotten memories and suddenly, the world-building was swept aside - artfully crafted elements blown to dust and replaced with convoluted vagaries. The terror, the threat of surveillance and the constant danger of living in a dystopian world all vanished in favour of some ill-devised love affair that made little-to-no sense in the context of the world. Almost as if the literary government had stomp on in and rewritten the latter passages.
It was odd, to say the very least.
And honestly, though I have read a lot of books over the years, I have to say that I have never experienced such a stark tonal shift in my life.

star rating: two stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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