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The Memory of Love

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  4,325 ratings  ·  545 reviews
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 dying man who was young during the country’s turbulent postcolonial years and has stories to tell that are far from heroic ...more
Hardcover, 445 pages
Published May 1st 2010 by Bloomsbury (first published 2010)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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Brown Girl Reading
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers who liked Cutting for Stone
Recommended to Brown Girl Reading 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
Cheryl
You know how some people fall in love and it is as if they're "lost in the darkness, amid thunder, blinding flashes, the madness of the wind?" Falling in love with someone else's love and losing all "sense of direction" can be fatal for the soul. This book captures this sweeping tale of love and betrayal in juxtaposed ways that spans decades, captures it in such an effective and spellbinding way it leaves you numb from memory, captures the force of love in a nostalgic and heartrending way, "the ...more
Thing Two
Nov 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Julie Christine
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Joy D
‘This is their reality. And who is going to come and give the people who live here therapy to cope with this?’ asks Attila and waves a hand at the view. ‘You call it a disorder, my friend. We call it life.’ – Aminatta Forna, The Memory of Love

In 2001, British psychologist Adrian Lockheart volunteers to help with mental health services in Sierra Leone, where residents are recovering from civil war. Terminally ill, aging academic Elias Cole, one of Adrian’s patients, tells Adrian his story of love
...more
JimZ
May 04, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book and had formed an opinion about it, but was not satisfied about my opinion which lead me to do some snooping, not about reviews of the book but about the context in which the characters of the novel existed…during the period of 1972 to 2003 in Sierra Leone which is a country in Western Africa adjoining Liberia and Guinea. Prior to reading this novel, I was dimly aware of the conflict of Sierra Leone and its poverty, but I was and am otherwise ignorant of the country and its hist ...more
Leslie Reese
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Éimhear (A Little Haze)
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
...more
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
Julie
Jul 07, 2018 added it
Shelves: 21st-century, british
8.0/10 for the writing
6.5/10 for the delivery

I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a writer's style so very much while at the same time being so completely bored by the book. It took me two weeks to read 185 pages. Each page was an achievement. I read enough to know this was going nowhere for me. It wasn't so very bad; in fact, the writing was good, technically; and she had a fine tale to tell -- but whether or not she would ever get there was lost in the minutiae of bla-de-bla-blah blah, an
...more
Shannon
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
...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
...more
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
Roger Brunyate
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wars-other, africa
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
...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
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
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
...more
Heledd Davies
Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Elaine
Apr 05, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Lily
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
Jill
Oct 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Joyce
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Edina
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I put off reading The Memory of love because I wrongly assumed it would be about one superhero, swooping in to save the lives of the "destitute". I'm glad I was wrong. I loved everything about this book, the storytelling, Aminatta Forna's writing style, the complex mixture of love, humor and drama, all in the midst of an important time in the history of Sierra Leone. What I appreciate most about reading books like this one is how they shift my perception. The Memory of love taught me that love i ...more
Aubrey
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
...more
Peggy
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
This must have been the slowest book I've ever read. It took me exactly 1 month to read the 450 pages. For the first 70% I was just waiting for something to happen, then in the last 30% it picked up slightly, but still there were so many pages that I just found boring and had to force my way through. I have to admit I started skimming in the last third, reading a couple of sentences per page properly, and I was still able to follow all of it, so that says something. The reason I finished it is t ...more
Madhulika Liddle
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I will admit that I read The Memory of Love because I had set myself one of those challenges to read books from around the world. Sierra Leone, I wondered, when I reached that part of the globe. Sierra Leone, of which I knew nothing except that it had had a very bloody history, civil war in my own lifetime. I didn't know the details, but the name of the country conjured up images of violence.

The Memory of Love begins in a quiet, sleepy way which does not hint at any of this violence. Former uni
...more
Wim
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is great. It has so many layers and dimensions. It is wonderfully written. It blew me away.

Aminatta Forna has succeeded in writing a beautiful and painful novel on the aftermath of civil war in Sierra Leone. It is a book about love and loss, highlighting both physical wounds (Kai, one of the protoganists is surgeon) as psychological damage and mental health. It goes back to the past through the personal story of Elias Cole, former Dean at the university, and intertwines several persona
...more
robin friedman
Feb 09, 2020 rated it liked it
The Fragmentation Of Conscience

Late in Aminatta Forma's long novel, "The Memory of Love" (2010) a British psychologist, Adrian Lockheart, reflects on his extended series of meetings with a dying political scientist, Elias Cole. Deeply troubled near the end of his life, Cole has been meeting with Lockheart as a form of expiation for feelings of loss and feelings of guilt. Lockheart observes that Cole suffers from "fragmentation of conscience" (p. 410), a condition which seems to indicate an unwil
...more
Trent
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jade
I burst into tears and cried for about 30 minutes after I finished The Memory of Love. I felt like I had closed the chapter on a long emotional journey, which had not been mine, but in which I had invested part of me, inserting myself into the lives of the characters without their knowledge, a fly on the wall so to speak.

It took me a while to get into the book, but not in the way that I would get bored or find it laborious. On the contrary, I fell in love with Aminatta Forna’s writing pretty muc
...more
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Aminatta’s books have been translated into eighteen languages. Her essays have appeared in Freeman’s, Granta, The Guardian, LitHub, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, The Observer and Vogue. She has written stories for BBC radio and written and presented television documentaries including “The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu” (BBC Television, 2009) and “Girl Rising” (CNN, 2013).

Aminatta is a Fel
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