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The Memory of Love

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,417 Ratings  ·  326 Reviews
Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book
Finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction
An Essence Book Club Pick


In contemporary Sierra Leone, a devastating civil war has left an entire populace with secrets to keep. In the capital hospital, a gifted young surgeon is plagued by demons that are beginning to threaten his livelihood. Elsewhere in the hospital lies a d
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Paperback, 464 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Didi
Sep 08, 2015 Didi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers who liked Cutting for Stone
Recommended to Didi by: Book Club choice
After finishing The Memory of Love late last Friday night, I was truly sad to see page 445 arrive. It seemed to come so quickly for me. I started reading on Wednesday and read non-stop anytime I was free through to Friday. I could have just been pushed by time since I was discussing it with my book club on Saturday, but actually I just didn’t want to do anything else besides read this book. I really didn’t want that passionate story of memory to end. Click the link for more http://browngirlreadi ...more
Thing Two
I can tell I've finished a moving book when I sit at dinner and explain detail after detail of the book to my non-reading husband, and then HE starts asking about it. This happened to us last night, sharing a sushi boat, sipping our wine, and discussing the civil war in Sierra Leone which lasted from 1991-2002 this time.

To say The Memory of Love is about the civil war in Sierra Leone is to dismiss this as a war novel, but it is much, much more. It's about how war ravishes the minds of its part
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Julie
Feb 04, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie by: Jill
This novel opens quietly, as if the writer were a doctor, cautiously revealing a wound, warning the reader to look, but don’t touch; as if she were a psychiatrist, probing delicately at the mind, but who avoids coming too close to the main issues, for fear of doing her patient greater harm.

The wounds in Aminatta Forna’s devastating and beautiful novel The Memory of Love (why am I certain the author had another title in mind, but was convinced by her publisher to go with the banal to encourage m
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switterbug (Betsey)
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 ...more
Shannon
Dec 08, 2015 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This book has been described as intricate and that might be an understatement. But even with so many moving parts, the author is able to bring them all together beautifully. This story illustrates how it can become impossible to distinguish between love, obsession, and infatuation.

Intertwined between the romantic love story are illustrations of love's many other facets. An uncle and a nephew, a physically deformed man and the pain he endures in hopes of finding a wife, the widow, the mistress, b
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Bruce
Dec 03, 2013 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author of this infelicitously named novel lives in London and was born in Scotland, the daughter of a Scottish mother and Sierra Leonean father who was involved in politics in his native country, ultimately losing his life as a political dissident. The Memory of Love has received a number of literary prizes. The story takes place in Sierra Leone. There are a number of ways that a reader can approach a novel that is set in a country and culture about which he knows little. He might focus on c ...more
Ellie
DNF

The Memory of Love is not an awful book. Most of my book group enjoyed it though they did seem to agree with me that it took 150 pages to get into. I gave up on page 164 (or 36%).

To be honest, I felt uninspired by the book before I even picked it up. A book about love in Sierra Leone. Sounds promising but I didn't engage at all with the characters and I felt it was all a bit unemotional. The group countered that it was more like real life. 1. I get enough real life as it is and 2. I am quite
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Rashida
Forna is a gifted writer, and I want to make clear at the outset that my stars are not based on my estimation of her talent. If it was just about the way she can turn a phrase, well there would be no reason to give her anything less than 5 stars. She can write, and she does it well in this book. The language is lovely. However, I did not like this book. I just didn't. I liked the broad outline of the story. I did not like the way the details were filled in. It was as though the story is a waterc ...more
Fiona
I was given this book several years ago by a gentleman I know with an incredibly exciting job that involves lots of travel, eye-watering anecdotes over dinner and, er, a legitimate favourite Somalian pirate that he knows on first name terms. His daughter is one of my best friends, and he knows my specialism in international and humanitarian law, so he'll occasionally send me interesting articles, white papers - and, once, this book. It sat on my shelf for a long time because I am rubbish, and re ...more
Heledd Davies
As a book set in a period of war and turmoil and based around the concept of love, I felt that 'The Memory Of Love' was oddly lacking in emotion. Reading the reviews on a lot of other books I've read about romance under horrific circumstances, the main criticism seems to be that they are over sensationalised and use cheap tricks to pull at our heartstrings. Well this book doesn't do that. The traumatising events that occur to the characters are told in a largely matter-of-fact way, and although ...more
Leslie Reese
Mar 25, 2015 Leslie Reese rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the early pages of this exquisite, devastating book, I read the story like a jealous lover who doesn’t want to read or hear anyone else talk about the object of their affection. I coveted the choice and placement of each word; I desired to absorb my beloved’s odor, breath, and eyelash movements; the musicality of voice; to hang on the atmosphere of each sentence, unashamedly. Sometimes I sat with the book on my lap, admiring and caressing the cover with my fingertips, clasping the weight of ...more
Elaine
May 02, 2011 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This is an ambitious novel and Forna clearly can write, and I appreciate her wanting to make it more than a horror story of war-torn Africa, to have varied voices and to emphasize the life around the trauma, not just the vortex within it. But the threads were uneven -- both in terms of plotting and timing, and in terms of compelling-ness. We spend a lot of time with Elias Cole, especially at the beginning, with his flat banality of evil and his not very interesting love story. When his denouemen ...more
Jill
Oct 13, 2013 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every now and then I read a book that is so powerfully crafted that I am in its spell for days afterwards: The Lizard Cage. In the Company of Angels. The Lotus Eaters. White Dog Fell from the Sky. And to this group, I now add Aminatta Forna’s masterwork, The Memory of Loss.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that each of these works, at its core, is about the survival of the human spirit and the triumphant resurgence of love during the worst times of war and torture. At our harshest times, we become t
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Joyce
Nov 23, 2013 Joyce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Amazing. Powerful. Though the first quarter of the book didn't do much for me. I had a hard time following the shifts from one character to the other and the present to the past.

Slowly, the book drew me in and slowly the dots were being connected. The characters were complex and their experiences both during the wars and after were unimaginable. Surviving was almost easier than coping afterwards. But hope and love also weaves its way through these hard times and broken hearts and minds. Those ar
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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
On the one hand, this is a well-written book with good character development and a solid sense of place. On the other, it has some structural issues that make me hesitate to recommend it.

The Memory of Love is set in present-day Sierra Leone, and follows three men: a dying academic, Elias, relates his life story (or a version of it) to a British psychologist, Adrian, who meanwhile befriends a local surgeon, Kai. It is a character-driven book, gradually moving deeper into the characters’ lives as
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Patti
I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me. I just finished this a few minutes ago and it's fresh in my mind. This was brilliant, tough, and important. The intricacies of people were laid bare in a truthful, if heartbreaking way. This book is a quiet read, and tells multiple stories of people trying to live among the turbulence created by a vicious war.

Forna tells the story from the perspective of three males...a difficult feat which she pulls off in an incredible way. I would have been sh
...more
Inge Vermeire
Ik heb er best wel lang over gedaan om dit boek uit te lezen en ik heb mezelf ook moeten forceren om niet op te geven - het verhaal ontwikkelt zich heel erg langzaam en het duurde zeker tot halverwege het boek vooraleer ik eindelijk nieuwsgierig genoeg was om écht door te lezen.

Maar toch is het logisch dat het boek zo traag vooruitgaat want het is de enige manier waarop Aminatta Forna ons duidelijk kan maken dat je over de verschrikkingen van een oorlog als in Sierra Leone nauwelijks kunt verte
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Megan
Oct 17, 2011 Megan rated it really liked it
Here's what I wish someone would have told me before I started this book: DON'T WORRY, the title's reference to love does not refer to the first relationship introduced in the book, Elias Cole's obsessive, possessive stalking of the happily married Saffia Kamara. Even if Elias was deluded enough to conceptualize his actions and feelings as love, the narrative makes it clear that it wasn't love. By the end of the book, the title was quite fitting, just in unexpected ways.

Other things that might b
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Lauren
Nov 13, 2010 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great plot, bit of a slog to get through. There's a shorter book here struggling to get out! Interesting take on the aftermath of war, the pathologizing of the victim's experience and aid work in general. Lots to think about. I'll definately read more by Forna.
Elise
Mar 13, 2015 Elise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am haunted by the horrors of war Forna describes in "The Memory of Love," but even more, I am in awe of the spirit of the characters in these pages who find the strength to fight for survival through it all. At one point, surgeon, Kai, after mending the tendons in a woman's wrist that have been severed comes to find out that the wound was not self-inflicted and thinks to himself that he "has never once treated a would-be suicide. War had the effect of encouraging people to try to stay alive. P ...more
Ann Warner
Oct 11, 2011 Ann Warner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received this book as a First Reads.

Had I checked this book out of the library, I might have stopped a few pages in and returned it. Which would have been a shame, because my conclusion when I finished the story was quite different from my initial impression. For me, trimming the first chapter would have better served the story. One example. There's a wonderful line that could have been Elias Cole's first, but it doesn't come until the bottom of page 5: "I saw a woman once, the loss of whom I
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
I just couldn't get into the story or the characters. I think part of the reason was the clogging sensory detail. Often you don't have enough--I've even heard an editor say that density of sensory detail is what separates the amateur from the professional, and such details can ground you in a story, and its setting--in this case post-Civil War Sierra Leone. But it seemed as if Forna had to walk us through the day of her characters in excruciating detail, burying us in minutia like this:

Adrian po
...more
Mikey B.
Aug 28, 2013 Mikey B. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
There are some revelations within regarding this book.

Although this book is well intentioned (one of its themes is the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on an African country) I found the overall result after reading unsatisfactory. There are a number of reasons for this. The pace is at times languid. There are too many conversations in bars and people’s homes that just hang still without much occurring for plot or character development. At close to 450 pages the book is too long.

The mos
...more
Trent
Oct 18, 2011 Trent rated it really liked it
Okay, this is a tough one to review. The title doesn't do much for me, but I entered the First Reads giveaway program here on GoodReads based on the blurb and my fascination with Africa. I was pleased to be selected for a free copy, but even more so, pleasantly surprised to be introduced to the work of this wonderful author, whom I may not otherwise have discovered on my own.

Trying to describe what The Memory of Love is about is part of what makes a review tough. Yes, as others have said, it's a
...more
George
May 06, 2011 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the most beautifully written books I've read in quite a while. But if you're looking for some light summer fare, go elsewhere. This book requires the reader to put some real effort into it, but the rewards are pretty worthwhile by the end of the tale. The book takes place almost entirely in Sierra Leone and the story shifts back and forth in time and back and forth among the major characters. We learn over time just how closely related all of these people are and how their stories are int ...more
Matilda
To this book I would apologetically like to say "It's not you, it's me". Objectively I can appreciate the book, but my state of mind was not up to a slow read about people haunted by war. Hence it took me 3 weeks to finish the book which further increased my disconnection from the story. I wish I could give the book 3.5 stars, because I did not enjoy the read that much, but I know that it is a good book.

Sorry, Aminatta Forna. You write beautifully and I promise to select a better moment for read
...more
Ekene Chuks-Okeke
Beautiful. I absolutely loved it, and it’s definitely one of my faves. I learnt so much, it made me think about things, it made me feel grateful that I can read, and more grateful that I enjoy reading.

My favourite part of this book was that they stayed. By they, I mean, Kai stayed. Tejani came home. Mamakay wanted to stay and even Adrian almost did. We may wander, we may explore but Africa is ours and the solutions to our problems lie with us. It’s not easy to love a place that has not given yo
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Carolyn Mck
Set in Sierre Leone, this is a story of two love affairs, set against a background of civil war and trauma. Somehow, until almost the end, the writer manages to distance us from raw emotions and an understanding of how people betray their ideals when they need to survive. What is worse – the rebel peasant whose task it is to burn out local villages (including burning people alive) or the educated man who ensures his survival by betraying friends to unknown fates (which may very well include tort ...more
Pallavi
Dec 14, 2015 Pallavi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Be warned that this book moves excruciatingly slowly and at its very own pace. Having said, there was no flipping pages or skipping paras for me. It is an intelligent and engrossing book, and each story within it is beautifully crafted. This book will demand very careful reading and will require the reader to put some serious effort and the rewards only come towards the end of the book. And, like me, you may have a hard time following the shifts from one character to the other and the present to ...more
Cathy
Nov 07, 2011 Cathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I would say this is 4.5 stars - it doesn't quite make my list of all time favorites, but it comes pretty close and is definitely one of my favorites I've read in the past few years. It's such a wonderfully crafted book.The author has real skill in weaving so many stories together. Not only are there several main characters who are very well developed, the secondary characters in this book are thoroughly developed as well. It's a beautifully written story about a group of victims of the civil war ...more
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Born in Glasgow, raised in Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom and now divides her time between London and Sierra Leone
More about Aminatta Forna...

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“All liars ... lie to protect themselves, to shield their egos from the raw pain of truth.” 29 likes
“The hollowness in his chest, the tense yearning, the loneliness he braces against, every morning until he can immerse himself in work and forget. Not love. Something else, something with a power that endures. Not love, but a memory of love.” 10 likes
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