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The Memory of Love

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  3,192 Ratings  ·  401 Reviews
Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love has been hailed as a book of rare beauty and importance, and was shortlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction. With astounding depth and elegance, it takes the reader through the haunting atmosphere of a country at war, delicately intertwining the powerful stories of two generations of African life.

In contemporary Freetown, Sierra L
Paperback, US, 464 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Grove Atlantic (first published 2010)
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Mar 23, 2013 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
Nov 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Thing Two by: Diane Rehm show
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
Beautiful. Sprawling. Emotional.
Set in Sierra Leone this is a book that explores all the facets of love and of war through the intertwining stories of three men, Elias Cole, Adrian Lockheart and Kai Mansaray, and their loves, Saffia, Mamakay and Nenebah. It explores survivor's guilt, PTSD and the fugue state, marriage, friendship and betrayal.

I loved the way this book wove the three stories of the men together. I enjoyed reading about Elias' story the best as he was an utterly fascinating char
Julie Christine
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie Christine 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
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

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
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
Jan 02, 2014 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
Roger Brunyate
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, wars-other
I fall down, I stand up

Where to start, in praise of this amazing book? Perhaps from the fact that Aminatta Forna, a woman, writes a novel where all three major characters are men, inhabiting their minds so naturally that it was not until almost the end that I stopped to wonder at it. Not that her writing is devoid of the female presence; the title of the book is well-chosen. Whatever else it is, the novel is threaded through with love stories, or rather, in most cases, the memories of love. I th
Aug 19, 2013 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
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
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
Oct 13, 2013 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
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers who like very fine literature
Recommended to Lily by: Neustadt Nominee 2016
Several years ago, I read a book which had a couple of paragraphs that so moved me that I simply quoted them for its review. This past month (early 2016), I have read two books, each by a Neustadt winner or nominee, which sent me scrambling to find that quotation. The two books were this one, Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love, and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance. TMoL deals with the terrible aftermath of years of rebel and civil war in Sierra Leone, whereas AFB is set in the years of Indira G ...more
This is the way Europeans talk, as though everybody shared their experiences. Adrian's tone suggested that the desire for something was all it took. They all live with endless possibilities, leave their homes for the sake of something new. But the dream is woven from the fragment of freedom.
I had hopes for this work that were not circumscribed by the formulaic route it ultimately took. Rest assured, there is a great deal of quality to be found within the realms of writing style and political c
Oct 07, 2013 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
Apr 05, 2011 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
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
Patti's Book Nook
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
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
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
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
Nov 05, 2010 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.
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it
For a book that is set in heart of civil war, the focus of the story for the most part lies entirely elsewhere though the involved characters are active participants in different capacities.

I personally struggled to understand narration since the shift between points of view was very rapid. There are sections where characters go through everyday life and the mundane occurrences as it happens, aren't really all that important in the story, thus wavering the plot.

With this book Forna shines a lig
Sep 27, 2011 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
Jan 28, 2015 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
Oct 05, 2011 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
Apr 14, 2011 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
Mikey B.
Dec 30, 2012 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
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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
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“All liars ... lie to protect themselves, to shield their egos from the raw pain of truth.” 33 likes
“A life, a history, whole patterns of existence altered, simply by doing nothing. The silent lie. The act of omission.” 12 likes
More quotes…