I have been a fan of Judith Barrow’s work for a long time so bought, The Memory, her new release the moment it was available. I also chose it as the book of the month for my reading group because by doing so it would ensure I read it in a timely fashion.

I have struggled to read much at this time and I was concerned how I’d manage with what I anticipated would be a difficult subject matter but I need not have worried. I found the way this was written, with short chapters broken up consistently into two time periods, was ideal. The length of chapter meant I wasn’t put off starting another one and in fact I found I read far more as I was keen to know what would come next in this compelling story.

The first part of each chapter was the story told over a day or so in 2002 and consisted of the intensely grim life that Irene was living with her mother. The second part started in 1963 and was the story of Irene’s life from when she was eight when Rose, her sister, arrived in it. Her love for Rose was absolute and moulded the rest of her life. This second storyline was also very much a love story as Irene meets a terribly patient Sam.

Barrow’s writing is, as always, superb. Her attention to detail transports you so far into the story you could be in the room with Irene and her mother, even if you’d rather not be present at times. Her characters are terrific and descriptions vivid.

This book was thoroughly discussed at my reading group (held via Zoom) and the views of all were broadly along the same lines although many wished Irene had not given up on so many of her own dreams because of the responsibility she felt towards others. But of course these were different times.

Highly recommended, this is an excellent, thoughtfully written read I’d recommend to all who enjoy realistic, well told tales of family life.


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