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The Map of Lost Memories

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  2,036 ratings  ·  408 reviews
Edgar Award Finalist for Best First Novel by an American Author
“Captivating . . . has qualities any reader would wish for: adventure, romance, history and a vividly described exotic setting.”—The Washington Post
In 1925 the international treasure-hunting scene is a man’s world, and no one understands this better than Irene Blum, who is passed over for a coveted museum c
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 18th 2013 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.31  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,036 ratings  ·  408 reviews

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Kim Fay
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Since I can't objectively review my own book --- I love it too much :) --- I'd like to share the "Publishers Weekly" review of it: "Fay’s debut novel is a thrilling mix of adventure and personal discovery set in Southeast Asia in the 1920s. At the behest of her manipulative mentor, Henry Simms, unappreciated 29-year-old Irene Blum quits her job at Seattle’s Brooke Museum and heads to Shanghai to persuade scholar-turned-revolutionary Simone Merlin to join her on a quest to locate 10 ancient Khmer ...more
I am often quiet about a book when I don't quite know where I stand. If I love it or hate it, then I have to tell others what is going on in my head /heart! This one has good things and bad. It is basically an adventure-mystery-intrigue novel with romance thrown in too. I was looking more for interesting tidbits on the Khmer culture (9-15th Century)..... but no, it is not bad. I immediately worry when I find myself with a novel of intrigue, contentious opponents and warring factions. I am sure I ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Indiana Jane

I love adventure, lost treasure stories and this one is screaming at high decibel! Irene Blum is the behind the scenes curator at a prestigious art museum throughout until the mid 20’s. This means she does the work, others get credit for it. Her specialty is Asian artifacts particularly those of Cambodia, specifically the Khmer tradition that blossomed between 9,000 AD through 1,500 AD and then mysteriously, and suddenly, disappeared. No one knows why. When she suddenly has the chanc
Susan (aka Just My Op)
First let me say that this book has apparently been loved by many of its early readers, and I can see why. The descriptions of the physical settings are wonderful, some of the metaphors are lovely, the storyline is potentially great, and the characters are not one-sided. They are selfish and altruistic, greedy and idealistic, and altogether human.

So, don't let my overall opinion put you off reading this book if you think it sounds like your kind of story. The book didn't work well for me because
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have almost nothing but praise for The Map of Lost Memories, this is a book I could just tell author Kim Fay poured her heart into. There’s just so much to love and enjoy, the authentic period feel, the complex and interesting characters, a well-woven plot that ties together ancient Khmer history with the complicated politics of the interwar years. It’s hard enough finding historical fiction featuring 1920s East and Southeast Asia, reading one like this, smart, well-researched, is a real treat ...more
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was lured into reading this by the ease of the e-book digital library. Seriously, I think I love this system. As much as I love going to the library, there are times when it is isn’t convenient and I don’t have anything to read! That happened last week, so I got online and found this and downloaded it because it sounded promising. After the first 100 pages, I admit I sped read and skimmed. I had to get out of this book fast.

Because, an interesting thing happened. I have a toddler and it just
Sep 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book just couldn't make up it's mind on what kind of book it was. It's billed as an adventure novel but the adventure doesn't begin until halfway through the book. Adventure books tend to move at a rapid pace but that only happened the last 75 pages. Earlier on it just dragged. I began to think the story would never move from Shanghi. It's not really a character study. The leading character is the only one fully developed and the other women are actually fairly done but the male characters ...more
On the surface, “The Map of Lost Memories” hits all my bookish sweet spots: archaeology, history, an evocative setting, and the political machinations of the museum world. In the 1920s, Irene Blum travels to Cambodia to search for the lost scrolls of the Khmer Empire. Irene has a troubled past and an obsession with Khmer art and history. Not much is known about the Khmer Empire to Westerners at the time (or now, you could argue), especially regarding how and why the empire disappeared. Irene wan ...more
Terry Ambrose
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think one reason some readers are disappointed in this book is that they're expecting it to be something it is not. This is a historical novel with elements of mystery. It is not a thriller, ala the Indiana Jones sagas.
The novel begins in 1925 Shanghai with Irene Blum finding out she will not get the curator’s position at the Brooke Museum of Oriental Art she has wanted for as long as she can remember. The reason she loses the position is that she is a woman and the world of museum curation an
Pamela Barrett
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! just started it and it's awesome....finished and still awesome. This book, The Map of Lost Memories, reads like a favorite classic old movie; think Casablanca, written with such texture that you can feel the suffocating steam rise deep in the Cambodian jungle. It is an adventure, mystery with an undercurrent of romance set in 1925. Irene Blum is a young woman from Seattle Washington, who has been working for the Brooke Museum specializing in exotic oriental artifacts. Irene leaves Seattle t ...more
Cindy Crawford
Good book with an interesting blend of history, mystery, character study and adventure. The adventure aspect seems the least developed, making it more of a literary novel than an adventure novel. Set in 1925, this is the story of a group of people searching for the lost scrolls of the Khmer in Cambodia.

The main character, Irene, changes and grows throughout the novel, but most of the other characters seem to stay somewhat stagnant, even Simone. It very much felt like the other characters were pr
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in 1925, this sophisticated, character-rich adventure begins in the Pacific Northwest, but most of the action takes place in the politically charged city of Shanghai and dense, steamy jungles of Cambodia, home of the ancient Khmer empire. Irene Blum is sure she is going to be put in charge of the Seattle museum she felt owed its success to her resolute, behind the scenes and not always legal acquisitions work, but a man with a degree is chosen in her place. Determined to prove her worth, she ...more
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The forgotten history of Cambodia is the foundation for this beautifully written novel of discovery. In The Map of Lost Memories, the author, Kim Fay presents a unique and exciting search for legendary copper scrolls, which are believed to describe the ancient Khmer civilization. When museum curator, Irene Blum, is given written evidence that the ancient scrolls exist, she enlists the help of adventurer, Simone Merlin, to help her gain access to this forbidden territory. However, Simone is a vol ...more
Brenda Hawley
1925, female archaeologist looking for lost Khmer scrolls in Cambodia: sounded like something out of Indiana Jones, right? The novel was, however, very disappointing. Some of the positive aspects were the descriptions of 1925 Shanghai and the jungles of cambodia. I learned more about the transitioning from colonialism to the beginning of communism in Indo-China, but the structure of the plot and characterization and lack of interesting suspense left me frustrated. I suppose my biggest complaint ...more
Sep 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picture Indiana Jones as a woman and you get a feel for what this book is like. It is so superbly written that I fell in love immediately with not only these characters, but the author as well. There's twists and turns and ups and downs and scandal and romance and excitement. On top of that, throw in some historical facts and an exciting trip through Cambodia and surrounding areas. It's all there. So why only 3 stars then? Well, I think for me anyway, it was a little too smart. I don't like to t ...more
I was hoping for an Indiana Jones-type archaeological thriller, but, unfortunately, this was kinda dull. I didn't end up liking any of the characters. I realize the book is supposed to be about the main character's growth--you're not supposed to like her that much in the beginning. I just felt like she didn't grow that much. She was a self-centered, thieving, immature whiner at the beginning, and she was pretty much the same at the end. I did think the Khmer history and the perspective on coloni ...more
Jaime Boler
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book Review: The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay

The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay (Ballantine Books; 326 pages; $26).

When author and former bookseller Kim Fay was a little girl, she became fascinated with Southeast Asia. Her grandfather played a significant role in her growing obsession. He was a sailor in the Orient in the 1930s and told Fay stories about his life. Together, they would study photographs from that era; Fay was entranced.

After graduating from college, Fay traveled to Asia fo
This book absolutely thrummed with the possibility of an exciting adventure of two women in the 1920’s who go in search for priceless artifacts from the Khmer civilization (present day Cambodia). Rather than focusing on the insights and journey of the women, the story kept getting muddied with men - good, bad and ne’er-do-wells.

The novel does study how women of the time were held back by the social mores of the day, and how they were often reduced to an object owned by the men in their lives bu
Deborah aka Reading Mom
I won an advance copy of this book through GoodReads First Reads.

My mind is still reeling from all the good things about this novel (or maybe it's from lack of sleep, due to reading it for such long periods of time). It has been awhile since I have been so truly absorbed in a book from cover to cover--and after finishing it, wanting to turn back to page 1 and begin again. The story starts In Seattle with Irene Blum the protagonist, then moves to Shanghai, Saigon, and finally Cambodia as other ch
Jeannie Mancini
Irene Blum, a museum assistant in Seattle, has been ousted out of the top curator position she has worked hard all her life to achieve. In shock, and feeling betrayed by her peers, she is soon given an opportunity by a friend of her father's to find a batch of lost copper scrolls that tell the story of the mysterious lost race of Cambodia's Khmer people. The Kmer race was the civilization that built the wonderous archaeogical site of Angkor Wat that lies deep in the eerie jungles of Cambodia. Se ...more
Heather Fineisen
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are someone who goes on vacation and spends all of your time behind the camera viewfinder, this is not the book for you. Reading this is a contemplative journey where you will experience sights and sounds and tastes. If you are in a hurry to see everything you will miss the best of this novel. Fay has written a novel where the adventure serves as the background for the true main character--location, location, location.

It is evident that author Kim Fay knows Cambodia and Southeast Asia ver
Meg - A Bookish Affair
I listened to this audiobook and really enjoyed it. This book is a historical fiction that takes place in Southeast Asia in the 1920s. There is a little bit of mystery, a little bit of romance, and a really intriguing premise that kept me listening anxiously to see what happened next.

I love reading about the 1920s and I have not read many books about Southeast Asia during this time period so I found the book truly fascinating from that aspect. The way that Fay writes about Shanghai and Cambodia
Barbara Seidel
This started slow but picked up momentum as the characters came alive. It tells the story of a woman in the 1920s trying to make a name for herself in the museum artifact field. Her goals take her all over SE Asia where she enlists a cast of lost souls including other women to help her. The descriptions of Cambodia and Vietnam - both places i have traveled to, made me want to go back. What was so compelling about the story was the depiction of women as adventurers at a time when women were not e ...more
Jul 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very nicely done quest novel set in 1925 primarily in Asia. The main character (Irene) doesn't get the position that she wants and feels she deserves at a Seattle art museum. Spurned she decides to make them sorry by finding long lost copper scrolls that tell the history of the Khmer in Cambodia which a major find if she does it. During her search she links up with a wide variety of interesting cohorts some being more helpful than others. The book is well written and full of exotic settings a ...more
Anne Slater
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Woman, teed-off because passed over for promotion at British Museum, takes mother's diary and map to Cambodia by way of subterfuge and craft to seek a "lost" temple.
On the way she learns a lot about human behavior/emotions, Cambodian history and religion, the place of the temple in modern Cambodian culture, and makes a Big Decision.
Set ~1930

Kept my attention the whole way thorough!
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
love historical fiction and this one filled my thirst for knowledge along with a good story. A hunt for list treasure and temple in Cambodia? I learned all about the Heyday and lost culture of the Canbodians along with personal drama, mystery and romance...
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Historical fiction, mystery and travel adventure all rolled into one, with a strong female lead and an unexpected ending. Loved it.
Aug 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
I am fairly uneducated when it comes to knowledge of cultures, histories and geography of the Orient. I have some vague memories of information from lessons in junior high or high school. Apart from that I'm sad to say that most of what I "know" comes from movies. Still, I'm a fan of the adventure genre and I'm definitely intrigued by areas like Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, China and others. So my interest was piqued by The Map of Lost Memories.

The author, Kim Fay, is very knowledgabl
May 30, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first adventure book I’ve read in which the focus has been on uncovering character motivation rather than the treasures being chased. Slow to start. Interesting peek into an ancient culture I knew nothing about.
Eugenea Pollock
Although I enjoyed much of this book, there were several instances that seemed temporally inconsistent—not many, not big—but jarring when they popped up. Hence, my rating.
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Former indie bookseller (Seattle), teacher and travel writer (Saigon), and jill-of-all-trades (Los Angeles). Author of the novels LOVE & SAFFRON (G.P. Putnam's & Sons/Spring 2022) and THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES (Edgar Award Finalist), and COMMUNION: A CULINARY JOURNEY THROUGH VIETNAM. Also the creator/​editor of the To Asia With Love guidebook series, passionate reader, tea drinker, bread baker, nep ...more

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“The one thing to remember about an adventure is that if it turns out the way you expect it to, it has not been an adventure at all.” 18 likes
“Even if you don't find what you think you're looking for, darling, it's the going out and looking for it that counts.” 6 likes
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