Becky Spratford's Reviews > The Memory Police

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa
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it was amazing

Three Words That Describe This Book: Orwell updated, character centered, thought provoking

This is a short book that packs a punch. I dare you to read it and NOT keep thinking about it for weeks and months.

It takes the old fashioned, Orwell type dystopian story of a police state that keeps taking away something-- in this case actual things in the world and also the memory of them.

What an amazing translation too. This is a short book, meaning there is an economy of words, but these words are very important. They have to convey the urgency of the situation and how it feels to lose memories.

The entire frame of the dystopia is purposely difficult to wrap your head around. This makes it even more disorienting. But the fact that Ogawa could do this in Japanese and then it is translated well enough to convey the weirdness of it all. And the horror.

Yes this is a dystopian SF story, but it is also a visceral horror story that delves into all out body horror in multiple places.

This is a book about the way it makes you feel-- extremely uncomfortable and yet, you can't stop reading. As things get worse and worse, as more things disappear, the human connections become more important. Our main character hides someone who is unable to forget memories.

Speaking of our narrator, I loved how she is NOT one of the exceptional ones. In most of these dystopian stories, the one who we see the story through is someone who resists or who can see the truth. She cannot and that made it all more visceral, real and disorienting. We meet people who remember, but we are never allowed into their heads.

Our narrator is also a novelist. So there is a second narrative which is the book she is writing. This book is even more scary and unsettling than what is happening "in real time," or is it?

Reading this book was an emotional experience. There is so much to digest but it is all at a level that anyone can relate to. The writing is lyrical and words are chosen carefully, but it is not pretentious. It is thought provoking precisely because it takes something so mundane...the regular every day objects in our daily lives... and makes you think about what happens when you are forced to live without them.

It is a story that is both practical and symbolic at the same time. And it is absolutely terrifying watching it all unfold.

Readalikes: The idea that some people can still remember the supposedly lost things and some still have kept many of these lost things secretly hidden and that those fugitives need to be hidden or they will be rounded up and killed and the danger those who remember pose to the order of the society, reminded me so much of FAHRENHEIT 451 by Bradbury

For fans of Murakami and Atwood, yes, but those authors take so many more words to get across the same feelings. And unlike the old school, Orwellian dystopian classics, this one has a female perspective, so those older titles might not be a great readalike for everyone.

Books like THE POWER by Alderman are so much more heavy handed than this novel.

There is a lightness and beauty underneath the terror and unsettledness. It needs to be experienced.

I think I haven't read a book this intense, thought provoking, and yet still short since THE VEGETARIAN by Han.

Also, I should note that the equally beautiful and disorienting THE HOUSEKEEPER AND THE PROFESSOR also by Ogawa is one o my all time favorites. And the 2 books make a great pair to read back to back.
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Reading Progress

September 15, 2019 – Started Reading
September 15, 2019 – Shelved
September 20, 2019 – Finished Reading

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