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The Book of Memory

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  3,076 ratings  ·  472 reviews
Memory is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal, her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was ...more
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published February 2nd 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published April 4th 2015)
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Linda Godsoe Ewart Sorry, didn't see this question. While I read David Guterson's "The Other" from my local library, I do see that it's on sale at
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The story revolves around two young men at university and the very different life choices they make and the deep loyalty of their friendship(less)

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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  3,076 ratings  ·  472 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 Interesting premise for this well written book. Memory is an albino black, convicted of the murder of the white man who raised her. Given the death sentence she waits, incarcerated in the maximum security prison in Harare, Zimbabwe. She is our narrator and this is her story.

This is not a quick read, nor is it a fast moving story. Rather it is the story of a young woman and how she got from there, a home with siblings and a mentally ill mother and a father she adored, to here, awaiting death.
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When we meet Memory, the narrator of this novel, she is in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Zimbabwe, having been found guilty of murder. From the start, we are told that she did not murder her adopted father, Lloyd Hendricks, and she is writing down her life story as part of her appeal against her death sentence. In effect, Memory’s life has two parts – the first nine years of her childhood, spent at 1486 Mharapara Street and then the next nine years of her life, spent with Lloyd Hendricks; ...more
“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching -- they are your family.”

----Jim Butcher

Petina Gappah, a Zimbabwean author, has penned a deeply moving literary fiction, The Book of Memory that narrates the life story of a Zimbabwean convict on a death row charged for murdering her adoptive father, who was once sold to this man by her own parents and how she evolved into a different person while living with her new family and how easily she could forget her own fam
♥ Sandi ❣
3 stars ... And this book started out so well.

An albino woman imprisoned for the death of the man who allegedly bought her, at 9 years old. The man who raised her and gave her every opportunity - a good education and with many steps up in her social status. Memory, is on death row -the only woman on death row in Zimbabwe. She is charged with writing the account of her life and the murder. It tells the back story of not only her life, but that of her family. Memory is an unreliable narrator.

Jen Campbell
A DNF, unfortunately.
Julie Christine
Mnemosyne, known as Memory, writes to an unseen, unmet Western journalist from her cell in Zimbabwe's notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. She has been sentenced to death for the murder of her childhood guardian, Lloyd–a white man to whom her parents handed her off in a diner when Memory was a young girl. Memory is an albino African, a condition that, even after she is treated for its physical pain, leaves deep scars in her psyche. Memory's attempts to define her identity and reason thro ...more
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Thanks to Sterling Books in Brussels for the free review copy!

The Book Of Memory tells the story of a Zimbabwean woman called Memory whose parents sold her to a white man when she was nine. She relates her tale in flashback as she sits in prison, having been convicted of the same white man's murder. I won't spoil any more of the story (personally I'm not interested in book reviews which discuss the plot in too much detail) other than to say that we do finally get some answers to the main mysteri
Liz Barnsley
The Book of Memory and I were at odds with each other for the first little while. The language Petina Guppah uses is rich and beautiful, peppered with local dialect and at times challenging to follow, but ultimately worth the effort.

The Book of Memory is exactly that – not only of the person narrating the story, Memory herself, but also memory itself and the way it flows backwards to points in time without any particularly cohesive order. The descriptive prose is haunting and gorgeous, I got a r
Sep 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Perhaps not a fair rating, since I didn't finish it, but I can't imagine suffering through to the end.

This story held such promise and I really wanted to like it, but had to abandon it after 45 pages. The dull, lifeless prose had me nodding off at the end of every page. It was a struggle to get as far as I did. Life is much too short to waste it on this.

Renita D'Silva
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This author's short story collection is one of my favourites, beautifully written gems of perfection, giving a glimpse into a fractured Zimbabwe. And this novel is even better. Moving, heart wrenching and beautiful. By co-incidence I was reading it while Zimbabwe was in the throes of political upheaval once again and that made it all the more poignant and powerful. LOVED every word. ...more
Sep 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Memory, an albino Zimbabwean woman, is the only female prisoner on death row in the notorious Chikurubi prison in Harare. The law of Zimbabwe restricts her to a single appeal for a change of her sentence, to save her own life. She is accused of murdering a white man, to whom she was sold as a child.

As a murungudunhu, I am a black woman who is imbued not with the whiteness of murungu, of privilege, but of dunhu, of ridicule and fakery, a ghastly whiteness.

Gappah has been called (to her dislike) "

May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are some advantages in a rainy Bank Holiday Monday, and one of them for me was that I was able to sit down and read The Book of Memory in almost one sitting. This is a debut novel that is both stunning and original. It is a book that will transport the reader to places unimagined, yet it is also a very challenging story, one that at times is difficult to follow. Despite this, The Book of Memory is so beautifully told and captures the heart. Memory's voice is strong, she is mysterious and a ...more
Puleng Hopper
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
An apt title.The book is a narration by the protagonist, an albino named Memory, based on her memory, recollection, and perception of the series of events that led to her incarceration for life in Chikurubi maximum prison, for the murder of her white cohabitant Lloyd .

The story is related as direct written correspondence to Melinda Carter, a white American journalist who was to be instrumental in the success of the appeal of Memory's sentence and conviction. Melinda was known to " have made a c
Oct 05, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Impossible to believe in. I like the author's personality, what it seems to be like anyway, nice smile, but it's not a good book. If the heroine was really a Cambridge (Britain) educated albino on death row in Zimbabwe she be world famous international news, she wouldn't be locked quietly in prison. The way the author made her albino as a symbol for culturally white (educated, intelligent, lives with white people) is just embarrassing. May be the way the author feels about herself. And the way t ...more
The first half dragged, meandered and was dry. But the second half of this book was excellent as Memory's story unfolds and the truth about her mother is revealed.
At the age of 9, Memory is "sold" to a single white man Lloyd. She is well educated in a caring house. They meet Zenko, an African artist, and Lloyd's secret (a fairly obvious one) is revealed. Memory goes to Europe and University and finally returns to Zimbabwe where she once again goes to live in Lloyd's house. Memory tells her stor
Jacqueline J
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this. It wasn't a convoluted read but you had to keep turning pages to see what was going on. Easy to read and easy to care for the main character. I liked that it ended on a hopeful note. ...more
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book review time!

4.5/5 stars

The Book of Memory was a challenging read, perhaps most because the fragmentary nature of memories mimicked the nonlinear storyline. The book is a collection of writings by Memory who is writing about her life, to appeal for her life. Memory, or Mnemosyne, is an albino woman on death row for the murder of her white adopted father Llyod. The writing is very rich, especially the scattering of the local dialect throughout the book. The Zimbabwean culture is portrayed wi
Book Riot Community
Memory, a young albino woman in a prison in Zimbabwe, must write down the story of her life if she wants to escape the death penalty. She has been imprisoned for the murder of the man her parents sold her to, and her lawyer thinks Memory's recollection is the only way to win an appeal. But as Memory tells her story, she begins to wonder if it really happened as she remembers it. Why does she feel nothing for the murdered man? The Book of Memory is a gripping story of love, fate, and the tricky b ...more
The book is still living rent free in my head hours later because I don't know whether Memo will let me go. Just go buy it and read it! ...more
Mar 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
This is my first quit of 2016. This book is on the long list for the Bailey's Prize... and when I read the premise I was hooked - Set in Nigeria - the story of a Nigerian Albino woman charged with the murder of the white man that bought her when she was 9 years old from her parents. I mean, come on how does that not sound so interesting.

Sad to say, it is not... I am over half way through the book, and it is just starting to discuss the man who bought her in any detail. There has been no discussi
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Memory, an albino woman, sits in a Nigerian prison cell having been convicted of murder. But did she really kill the man who bought her from her parents so many years ago? In part a tale of coming of age in a modern world where witchcraft and curses are still believed in, in another a tale of female prisoners. I thought it was quite something. Loved how it all unfolded.
Victoria Law
I know nothing about Zimbabwe, let alone the prison system or women's prisons there. That said, I was utterly sucked into Gappah's descriptions of the township, the suburbs, and the prison, especially the people in the prison (the other incarcerated women, the guards and the clueless Goodwill volunteers).

When asked by one such clueless volunteer, "Are you coping with prison conditions now? Are you missing anything, anything at all?"
Gappah describes, "Am I missing anything, anything at all? I mea
Michael Clark
The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah has sat on my shelf for five years - and while I was always excited by the prospect of reading it, I never really got around to it. This year I set out to read it, and was a little underwhelmed. There are definitely some very accomplished moments in this novel. There are moments of humour and intrigue. Gappah draws a really striking portrait of life in a Zimbabwean women prison, sets up a convincing and unreliable narrator in Memory (a woman with Albinism who ...more
chloe ♡
Woah! This book took me a really long time to read.

I feel so sorry for Memory. Unfortunate things keep happening to her - she is a wonderful woman and surely does not deserve that. Being different is a huge problem too - people keep isolating and bullying her! I'm so glad she finally finds faithful and kind friends in Chikurubi Prison, who let her cry on their shoulders and comfort her when she is sad.

I really enjoyed this book! A big thank you to my book buddy Penny for recommending it to me! L
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Part 1 was the most difficult section to read for me. There are lots of characters introduced which are not part of the story and that makes it confusing. Overall its an okay book and the story is an interesting one but it could have been structured better.
Nick Mclean
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
At once a moving personal journey and a window into contemporary Zimbabwe. A young woman, in jail for murder tells the story of how she ended up in prison. Her narrative, switching back and forth between the past and present vividly recounts her prison experiences, her unusual childhood, her birth and adopted family and broader events in Zimbabwe.

How does a seeming affable narrator commit a horrific murder? Is she innocent? Petina Gappah's narrator is reminiscent of one of Margaret Atwood's lea
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Novel set in ZIMBABWE

Memory, or Mnemosyne, an albino black woman, confined in Chikurubi prison in Harare, Zimbabwe writes down an account of her life. This is to form part of her appeal for Mnemosyne has been convicted of murdering a white man, Lloyd, her adopted father. The narrative shifts from an account of her childhood in an impoverished township, Mufakose, to her present life in prison.

It is, at times, a harrowing read; Mnemosyne’s life as a young albino girl describes in agonising detail
Callum McLaughlin
Sadly this just didn't work for me at all. It's like 'Part One' and 'Part Two' were written by completely different people. 'Part One' is a hard slog with very little advancement in the story that is crammed so full of colloquialisms and African dialect that the prose is verging on impenetrable. 'Part Two' is decidedly more readable and finally kicks the plot into action, but there were times throughout when potentially interesting ideas were rushed, glossed over or not even explored, whilst ext ...more
Abby Slater- Fairbrother
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have just devoured this novel, in 2hrs on a lazy Sunday morning! I keep day dreaming with thoughts on the themes and mostly my ability to assume the worst within the narrative. I rarely jump to conclusions in novels, I simply let the author tell the story. But with this novel I made false assumptions time and time again! Which meant when I finally turned the last page, I was left stunned with so much to contemplate.

The novel opens with the protagonist Memory, narrating her life in Chikurubi j
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*possible spoilers* Question about Lloyd 2 14 Jan 29, 2018 05:06AM  

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Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University, and the University of Zimbabwe. Her short fiction and essays have been published in eight countries. She lives with her son Kush in Geneva, where she works as counsel in an international organisation that provides legal aid on international trade law to developing countries.

Articles featuring this book

An albino woman on death row at Zimbabwe's Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison writes down her unusual life story in the new novel The Book of Memory.
25 likes · 8 comments
“I had never seen so many books gathered in a single space as I saw in that room. I felt less afraid when I thought of all the other people who seemed to have had harder lives than mine. I disappeared completely to occupy the world of whatever book I was reading.” 5 likes
“When we talk of fate, when we talk of a fatalistic vision of human experience, what we mean is that the most important forces that shape human lives are out of human control.” 2 likes
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