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The Memorial

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  222 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
With The Memorial, Christopher Isherwood began his lifelong work of rewriting his own experiences into witty yet almost forensic portraits of modern society. Set in the aftermath of World War I, The Memorial portrays the dissolution of a tradition-bound English family. Cambridge student Eric Vernon finds himself torn between his desire to emulate his heroic father, who led ...more
Paperback, 294 pages
Published March 1st 1999 by University of Minnesota Press (first published 1932)
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May 17, 2016 rated it liked it
This strikes me as one of the most underrated titles in Modernism. Despite the turn of many writers in the 1930s to more politically-engaged writing, this is a strong bookend to a period invested in the underlying structures of narrative and language. The impressions don't strike as profoundly as Woolf's (NB: she published the first edition), but the structure of the narration seems the result of a mind that plumbs nearly as deep. Additionally, its treatment of World War I demonstrates a maturit ...more
Jun 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Isherwood novels, as a general rule, so my giving this one three stars probably means I just read it at the wrong moment. Also, since the author is dead, it can't do any harm to low-rate this one, even if I am probably wrong to do so. Isherwood has long been one of my favorites, so when I was poking around in Books Inc., and saw they had his first novel on sale, I decided it was time to give it a go. Sadly, I am so over-saturated with reading about the English of this period that even whe ...more
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Usually I know just how many stars to give, but I was between 4 and 5 for this one. In the end it got 5, because it deserves them and because it's so undervalued. I take the reviewers' points, regarding the lack of plot and the overfill of characters, but what characters they were! They are portrayed so well. It's certainly one of those books that I find I miss when I've finished. And it's really quite ahead of its time, so much so that I'd love to know how it was received in 1932. Aside from th ...more
Jun 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isherwood's second novel, touted as the novel in which Isherwood becomes Isherwood, left me a little disappointed. I read A Single Man ages ago, loved it for its prose, but this left little to be liked. It's a character study with little to no real engaging plot. The characterizations are incredibly lifelike. The prose, however, was sparse and lacking in melody. There were bits and pieces in which you can see (and hear) Isherwood for what he is known, but they occur in the first and fourth parts ...more
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'O Memorial, Retrato de uma Família', foi publicado em 1932 e editado em Portugal em 1990 pelas Edições do Brasil. Uma edição cheia de falhas, a começar por uma tradução com alguns erros e terminado numa revisão péssima.
Christopher Isherwood ainda não tinha 30 anos quando escreveu este seu segundo romance, tendo aproveitado já a sua experiência de vida em Berlim para a incluir na personagem Edward.
Aqui se caracteriza uma época, neste caso a Inglaterra dos anos 1920, salientando-se a complexidade
Jan 03, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: classics
The Memorial is Christopher Isherwood's second novel and though it comes highly recommended with wonderful blurbs and recommendations from scholars, it is not one of the author's finest works. I did not like it. One problem for me is that the book really does not have a plot, for which it is recognized and for which it is acclaimed as a series of highly developed character studies. Unfortunately, I could not develop much connection with any of the characters. The biggest disappointment is that t ...more
Lord Beardsley
Jan 01, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2011
It took me until pretty much the last page in order to get all the interchangeable characters straight in my head as well as to understand what the hell was supposed to be going on. This was obviously written before Isherwood was a.) fully open to himself as a homosexual and b.) before he ruled. If you're just starting with Isherwood, don't start with this one (psst start with Berlin Stories!) and then only read this one if you've read everything else and are as much of an Isherwood geek as I am ...more
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really do love Christopher Isherwood. In this novel, he writes about the satellite friends and family of one very charismatic and attractive set of aristocrats, the Scriven Family. The main sources of jealousy come from Edward Blake, best friends from cold, cruel English boarding school with Richard Vernon, Mary Scriven's brother, and Eric Vernon, Richard's son with his milquetoast wife, Lily. Both of them are social outcasts--Edward for being gay and a little bit too mean as a young man, and ...more
Cesar Alvarez
Aug 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Isherwood's character portraits in The Memorial were wonderful, as usual, but I thought he took on too many characters, and the narration was a bit hard to follow. The suicide scene early in the novel was intense and memorable. At first I found Eric to be the most interesting character, but by the end it was definitely Edward.
Bryan Cebulski
Dec 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, queerness
Noticeably one of Isherwood's first works. It felt like he spent a long time just writing character sketches without a clear idea of what said characters would do, then realized he had enough material for a novel and tried to paste it all together. Bizarrely and confusingly paced, only occasionally interesting as prose, and with far too many characters to juggle (all of whom you never see again just as they start to get interesting), The Memorial still manages to allude to some worthwhile themes ...more
Richard Jespers
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Isherwood’s second novel is not a comfortable or cozy read. He is a bright, young author attempting to impress the literary world with perhaps a Modernist book, one like his heroes, E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf, write. This novel, as the title would suggest, revolves, at first, around the World War I memorial that one English town erects to honor its own 130 fallen men, including one Richard Vernon. But the narrative is so much more: it tells the story of his surviving widow, Lily Vernon, he ...more
Allan MacDonell
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Christopher Isherwood is one of the most civilized, well-mannered writers I’ve ever read. During my impressionable youth, my search for wayward reading material drew me to A Single Man and Berlin Stories and Prater Violet and Down There on a Visit. I remember being emotionally invested in Isherwood’s heroes and heroines. I remember feeling for the humanity of his villains. I remember complex motives and circumstances rendered with easy clarity. Above all that, I remember that these books—dealing ...more
I bought this book along with a few of Isherwood's books, only because I am such a fan of "A Single Man." I feel like the book had a lovely intention from the summery, but once I began to read it, I almost shelved it a few times, not sure if I wanted to continue reading it. The novel seemed very slow but was not really getting to the point. There were moments where I felt lost, and as a lot of people pointed out, the novel didn't really have much of a point. I HATED Eric. He was a very mean char ...more
Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's so easy to read Isherwood, because his writing is so effortless; so clear; so witty. Having completed this one, I think I can now describe him as one of my favourite authors.

I picked this novel up in Foyles on a staff recommendations display - having loved the Berlin novels and A Single Man, and rather enjoyed Christopher and His Kind too, I figured I couldn't go wrong with this.

Pointless to talk about plot, because that would miss the point somewhat. Even the blurb on the back of the copy
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book was a great exercise in modernity, non-linear time passages, shell shocked men after the war, some sort of semblance of stream of consciousness toward the end, everything Jean Rhys and Virginia Woolf were doing two decades earlier. I liked this book but it was by no means great, Eric, Maurice and Edward were the only interesting characters and all the extra ones like Lily and Mary and Ram's B all seemed to blur into one, indeed it is very unclear what happens in this novel and the idea ...more
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has basically no relation to the blurb on this edition but it was enjoyable anyway. I feel like it took me until around quarter of the way through to get the hang of who everyone was and how they were related to each other and how the timeline worked. After that it became much easier to read and then seemed to be over too quickly. It works at this length but I would still like to know more about what happened to the characters. So much of it's in the subtext as well so it would be good ...more
Oct 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thought this book has a really lovely story, however, I would caution any possible readers that at times the book can be very confusing. The book is often confusing because of the many characters and the switching points of view. The real heart of the story is in parts 3 and 4 of The Memorial. I encourage readers to power through the parts of the story that are less interesting to get to the wonderful story.
Darcee Kraus
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
An old-fashioned German gentleman who speaks, quite eloquently I'd like to add, about literally, the portrait of a family, how that structure is prolonged and idealized by society, and makes several points that created new ways for my own personal thinking.

Darcee Kraus
Mckinleyville, CA
Mar 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Wanted to like this one but never really got into it the way I have with his other books. Contained the line 'Other people were brilliant and erratic. He just slogged on.' which I quite liked and wrote on the back of an U-Bahn ticket because my phone had died. Other than that, it sort of felt like some other person trying to write and Isherwood style story but leaving out all the good bits.
I knew when I began this book that it was primarily a character study and the plot was almost secondary. I found the plot to be minimal, and while the chartcters were well written I couldn't always tell who was who. The last few pages might have been the best in the book, but even then there was little if any resolution. I'm glad I didn't buy this book.
Wils Cain
May 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
The story of a family after WWI and its impact on each of them. Great attention to each character's perceptions. The story unravels out of chronological order which makes for a much more interesting read.
Tim Smith
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
That was really disgraceful, because, in fifty years' time, nobody would know who anybody was.
(This novel must have been mined by the creators/writers of Downton Abbey.)
I love Isherwood but I found it so hard to get into this book.
Linda McCoy
Jul 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this on Goodreads First Reads giveaway, and really liked it. Not much of a plot, but very much a story about the 20's written in the 30' very authentic. A keeper.
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
"You know," said Franz, very serious and evidently repeating something he had heard said by his elders: "that War . . . it ought never to have happened."
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Jul 14, 2007
Clare Ciekawski
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Jan 12, 2017
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May 23, 2013
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Aug 23, 2008
Jim Wilson
rated it it was ok
Nov 10, 2016
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Christopher Isherwood was a novelist, playwright, screen-writer, autobiographer, and diarist. He was also homosexual and made this a theme of some of his writing. He was born near Manchester in the north of England in 1904, became a U.S. citizen in 1946, and died at home in Santa Monica, California in January 1986.

Isherwood was the grandson and heir of a country squire, and his boyhood was privile
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“His boredom was like a nostalgia for the whole world. He was homesick for everywhere but here.” 6 likes
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