Forgotten in Memory is written by second-year University of York history student, Chloe Grant-Jones. Writing a book in your spare time is an impressive feat for any student, but Grant-Jones has done more than just churn out 193 pages of story – she’s crafted characters and created a gripping tale of goodness.
I was admittedly a little cynical on perusing the blurb and background to this book. Young adult fiction based around emotion, memories and loss didn’t tickle my cup of tea. However, I was joyously proven wrong. Joanna, Imogene and Jason lost their parents nine years ago, and they’re each carrying that burden of loss in different ways. As the anniversary of their parents’ death comes around, Imogene isolates herself and Joanna and Jason struggle with that tension of emotion and family. Although this is the central plot, so much is weaved together, there are many nuances and facets of story to be enjoyed.
This isn’t a mopey book, but a realistic one. Joanna and her friends are returning from university for summer and the ebb and flow of catching up and coming home is written well. Though Joanna’s friends aren’t amazingly fleshed-out, they’re relatable. The ‘secondary cast’ in general – their aunt Katrina and the Vincents next-door included – generally provide a light touch to what easily could have been a heavy and intense tale. Even the least developed character brings something to the book, as the blurb says: ‘We no longer exist as the secondary characters to our own story, instead we become the protagonists of our own’.
The themes are subtle. No prize for guessing memory is one of them. Mental health issues are another, with the burdensome twenty-something characters buckling under life realities. Grant-Jones plays a tuneful melody with motifs of deep sadness but a driving force of hope. The words of Leo Tolstoy, writing in War and Peace (1869) comes to mind: “pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy.” Agree with him or not, it’s an uplifting if not sobering thought which I feel this book encapsulates.
By far, my favourite moments in the book feature the elderly neighbour Mrs Vincent, who serves as an angelic figure, supporting the family and dropping home truths. Her husband suffers from Alzheimer’s, and she struggles on through, serving as a wonderful example of living through struggle and the learning through living. At one point, in Chapter 8, she lovingly berates the bookishly serious Jason: “Don’t look so serious. We should all be on our knees if we carried the weight on our shoulders that you look like you’re carrying.” A fairy-godmother aura alights her character, a benevolence that frequently brought a smile to my face.
The book is not entirely smooth: a little rough around the edges with some clunky sentences. However, Forgotten in Memory is a book that absorbs. Reading it on a train, I phased out the clatter and cacophony of travel over the course of a few pages. After racing through its entirety in three joyous days, I was a little sad to step out of the book. There’s no feeling in the world like getting lost in a great story.
Verdict – 6/10 – Fab
A novella which draws in the reader into its own little world. Nothing earth-shattering, but thoughtful, enjoyable and good.
Forgotten in Memory, Chloe Grant-Jones 2017
The Book Guild Publishing