The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

You Are At The Bottom Of My Mind (Review: My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares)

My Name Is Memory
Ann Brashares
Hodder and Stoughton 2010

Daniel is an old soul. Literally. He has lived many lives and, unlike the majority of souls, is able to remember each and every one. And in each and every one his driving force has been his love for another soul – Sophia. In each life he searches for her, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. When he finds her again in the form of teenage Lucy he hopes that this may be the lifetime that they finally spend together but hundreds of years of experience have taught him to be wary. When his first encounter with Lucy goes awry he fades into the background, scared of losing his beloved Sophia once more. Lucy, for her part, is captivated by the enigmatic Daniel – a fellow student whom she fails to speak to until just before she graduates. When they finally talk she is overwhelmed by their mental and physical connection but what Daniel has to say confuses and distresses her. She walks away, trying to consign him to history but as the years pass, circumstance forces her to confront Daniel's claims once more and wonder what they might mean for both her future and her past.

My Name is Memory is very much Daniel's story (in fact, the very title alludes to this). He's one of the most compelling protagonists that I have read. It is clear from the start that he is deeply conflicted. Part of him seems extremely proud to be a sole documenter of eons of history, watching civilisations rise and fall and the very terra firma change as he walks apon it. However, he also seems despondent – isolated and lonely by his extraordinary memory and this is perhaps the crux of both his character and of the story. Daniel is entirely focussed on his internal essence and he moves from life to life merely inhabiting bodies rather than connecting with the life that he is living. He's not unkind, nor unlikable – just distant, separated by a life line that those who surround him could never comprehend. The one thing that does motivate him is his love for Sophia but even this is distorted through the prism of his memories. When he does meet Lucy (and prior to her, Constance) he doesn't see her but rather a vessel ready to be filled with his memories of the soul she isn't even aware of. His character development is slow – he has lived for a long time without ever really changing, after all. When Daniel does start to alter it is beautifully done, but also believably stilted.

Lucy is no less interesting. After attempting to overcome her initial meeting with Daniel she cannot quite escape her intuition that he is someone of great importance to her. As she moves through college and into graduate school she discovers more and more about the lives that she may have lived before. She doesn't accept what she finds easily and her torment as she starts to believe that what Daniel told her may have been true is compounded by her inability to find him. She's a character who is easy to relate to and while I found her slow to warm to by the end of the book I truly admired her. From the start it is clear that she is unwilling to be Daniel's Sophia – she is, after all, Lucy. Though they spend much of the book apart, Daniel and Lucy make a very beautiful couple – yet not a perfect one. While it is clear from the start that they have a unique bond, it is not always clear that they are destined to be together – an issue that remains unclear throughout the book.

My Name is Memory is nothing if not epic in scope. The narrative is split into two sections with the modern day story told in the third person and taking place between 2004 and 2009. The alternating narrative is told in the first person by Daniel as he recounts his experiences from around 541AD to 1986. Ann Brashares has worked in the premise that souls are moved from life to life in loose groups, with many souls touching each others lives repeatedly. In the case of Daniel and Lucy, they have an ancient antagonist who continues to seek them out and come between them in every life. This aspect of the plot adds a sinister edge to their love story and allows Brashares to write a thrilling and dark set piece towards the end of the novel.

Weeks after finishing My Name Is Memory I am still reeling from it's story and scope. The writing is utterly captivating and the characters flawed and fascinating. The book ends with lots of questions and I believe that there is another title to follow, but it actually stands alone very well – it isn't entirely necessary to know all the answers and I enjoyed pondering the possible outcomes through the lens of Daniel and Lucy's previous experiences. There are a few reincarnation stories out there at the moment (Fallen, The Eternal Ones) but this is by far the most successful that I have read – and definitely the most beautiful. Highly recommended.

My Name Is Memory is available now. Thank you to UK Book Tours for providing me with this copy to read and review.


Lauren said…
I really liked this one too. I agree about it standing alone really well - while on one level I'd like to *know* what happens next, on another I felt like the questions left open were kind of the point. Great review - you've reminded me exactly why I enjoyed it so much.
Splendibird said…
You know, I was going to email you to ask if you'd read it yet as I knew you'd love it. And yes, I felt that the open ending was exactly the point.
Unknown said…
I loved this one. But I really need there to be more I just could not cope if it was a stand-alone. The book nearly went across the room with that ending :D
I have to say your vocabulary and review writing skills are beautiful. I am in awe *fan-girl sigh*
Oh I really loved this one as well. So beautifully written and such great depth to the characters and their relationships. Hated the ending though, I do not agree that it stands well alone! :)
Lyric (Zombie) said…
Congrats! Take A Walk With Me Down Book Review Lane (Lame, I Know) has chosen you the One Lovely Blogger Award! To see, click here: (Or copy and paste It). Thanks again.
Robby said…
I've read a few positive things about this book and a few negatives, but I'm definitely interested. Ann Brashares has been an author I've wanted to explore for a while now. I'm glad I read this.
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