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The Memory of Love [Paperback]

Aminatta Forna
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

7 Mar 2011

Freetown, Sierra Leone, 1969. On a hot January evening that he will remember for decades, Elias Cole first catches sight of Saffia Kamara, the wife of a charismatic colleague. He is transfixed. Thirty years later, lying in the capital's hospital, he recalls the desire that drove him to acts of betrayal he has tried to justify ever since.

Elsewhere in the hospital, Kai, a gifted young surgeon, is desperately trying to forget the pain of a lost love that torments him as much as the mental scars he still bears from the civil war that has left an entire people with terrible secrets to keep. It falls to a British psychologist, Adrian Lockheart, to help the two survivors, but when he too falls in love, past and present collide with devastating consequences. The Memory of Love is a heartbreaking story of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

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The Memory of Love + The Devil That Danced on the Water: A Daughter's Memoir + Ancestor Stones
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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks; 1st Edition Pbk edition (7 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408809656
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408809655
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Aminatta Forna was born in Scotland and raised in West Africa and the UK. Her most recent novel The Hired Man is a tale of love, loss, betrayal and war in Croatia. Her previous novel The Memory of Love (April 2010), was winner of the 2011 Commonwealth Writers Prize Best Book Award, shortlisted for the Orange Prize 201, the IMPAC 2012 and the 2011 Warwick Prize.

Aminatta's first book The Devil that Danced on the Water, a memoir of her dissident father and of Sierra Leone, was runner-up for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2003 and BBC Book of the Week. Her novel Ancestor Stones was winner of the 2008 Hurston Wright Legacy Award, the Liberaturpreis in Germany, was nominated for the International IMPAC Award and selected by the Washington Post as one of the most important books of 2006.

Product Description


'A writer of great talent and courage' (Monica Ali)

'An intricate tapestry of betrayal, tragedy and loss ... an affecting, passionate and intelligent novel about the redemptive power of love and storytelling' (Daily Telegraph)

'Let us hope that it takes its place where it deserves to be; not at the top of the pile of "African Literature" but outside any category altogether - and at the top of award shortlists' (The Times)

'Intelligent, engrossing and beautifully crafted' (Daily Mail)

Book Description

Shortlisted for the Orange Prize 2011

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
73 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely one of my top ten desert island books. 22 July 2010
By Moira C
"The Memory of Love" is a story set in Freetown, Sierra Leone featuring two triangular relationships separated by a generation, with parallel accounts set during the political unrest in 1969 at the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing and during the period 1999 to 2001 following the brutal civil war.
The earlier era features Julius Kamara and Elias Cole who are both lecturers at the same University. Whereas Julius is charismatic,politically motivated and an idealist, Elias Cole is traditional, politically disengaged, and possessed with only mediocre talent.These two characters have only one thing in common; their love for Saffia.
Julius' life and fate is dictated by his political ambitions and that of Elias by his infatuation with Saffia.
Move forward 30 years and Adrian a disenchanted Psychologist from London takes advantage of an overseas government sponsored post in Sierra Leone to research Post Traumatic Stress disorder. However, underpinning his decision to take up this post, is his need to escape from a stagnating marriage and to discover what he really wants out of life.He befriends Kai Mansaray a dedicated and accomplished young trauma surgeon who works tirelessly at the city hospital.
Like so many other victims of the civil war, Kai too is suffering from PTSD played out as recurrent nightmares and insomnia. Young hopes,plans and romances are destroyed and by a sad twist of fate work to Adrian's advantage.
Adrian is the centre point of the story which oscillates between the city hospital where Elias Cole, now terminally ill, talks through his earlier life at the university in an attempt to seek absolution, and the local mental asylum.
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142 of 146 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful storytelling 16 May 2010
By E
Aminatta Forna's memoir (The Devil That Danced on the Water) was, for me, an introduction to the recent history of Sierra Leone that went far beyond the headlines... it was a brave and true account. I enjoyed her first novel (Ancestor Stones)with its interwoven stories, but The Memory of Love book had me ignoring children, skipping meals and sneaking an extra half hour during my lunch break so I could spend more time with the characters. It's beautiful. She takes the reader deep into the heart of a story of two generations, betrayal, love and longing...and in these pages one travels to another place - to Free Town at the heady time of Independence, through the country's darkest times of war and, in the 'present day', with its traumatised people as they try to rebuild their city, their country and their lives. It's impossible not to fall in love with these characters - so intimately does the reader come to know them. It's Forna's skill that throughout, the politics (both personal and historic) remain as complicated as we know life to be - whereever we are. This is her best book yet...
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Set primarily in the late 1990s in Sierra Leone, a time in which a brutal Civil War is being waged and over fifty thousand people killed, this novel comes as a surprise. Telling two tales of love in two different generations, the author is mightily challenged to be true to her setting and time periods while also allowing the love stories to develop naturally within this fraught environment. She accomplishes this, largely, by referring to the war only obliquely for most of the novel, with flashbacks by individual speakers providing details of the war and explaining how the memories of war have affected the behavior of characters whom the reader has come to know. A flash-forward which takes place in 2003, after the end of the war, occurs at the end to reconcile elements of the plot and themes.

As the novel opens, Elias Cole, a former professor and Dean of the university in Freetown, is now an elderly hospital patient, dying a slow disease which robs him of his breath. There, he is a patient of Adrian Lockheart, a British psychiatrist who has left his wife and daughter behind in England while he works for six months in the hospital near the university. Adrian quickly discovers that the dying Elias has memories that he is impelled to share about his life in the 1970s, many of these involving Saffia, the wife of Julius Kamara, a young professor. Old-fashioned story-telling conveys episodes from Elias's memories of his much younger life, and the author emphasizes from the beginning that it is with these three characters that the entire story really begins--Elias Cole, Julius Kamara, and Saffia.

A parallel narrative, with different main characters, takes place sometime around 2001, near the end of the war, with flashbacks to events of the late 1990s.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Rita
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I just wish this compelling and moving story had been told in fewer pages! Never having read anything by Aminatta Forna before, I downloaded The Memory of Love based on its many 5-star ratings and because the subject intrigued me. Whilst enjoying the lyrical prose style I found the first 30% frustratingly slow, and very nearly gave up. However, I did persevere, though it wasn't until I was past the middle that it really began to grip me.

I was struck by the sensitive and unsensationalised recounting of unimaginable horrors and their consequences, and the hauntingly evocative sense of time and place. I would endorse the glowing comments of other reviewers and feel it has given me an insight into a world I previously knew nothing about.

I am reluctant to criticise a published author of great talent and emotional intelligence, and do so only to encourage anyone tempted to give up to stick with it - it will reward you!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Some of the content is very painful but it does end with optimism
A lyrical writer who evokes the setting and people. Some of the content is very painful but it does end with optimism.
Published 11 days ago by A. Stone
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow going until the middle...
I almost put this book down several times. It felt like nothing was happening, but there was something compelling in the story which slowly unravelled. Read more
Published 15 days ago by lisa5750
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 24 days ago by miss G C Di'Lorenzo
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written
An insight to the lives others live.
Published 1 month ago by milly
3.0 out of 5 stars A good but not a great read
I enjoyed this book, but had a problem with how the story was told. The author kept skipping backward and forward between two generations of time for all the main subjects. Read more
Published 1 month ago by A. P. In Reading U.K.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story
From start to finish this book interweves the stories of peoples' lives during and after the war in Sierra Leone. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Caroline S Pirrie
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Brilliantly written, I couldn't put it down. It makes you feel as though you are right there with the characters in Sierra Leone, and effortlessly combines the emotions of the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jessica Hamer
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, good story
Aminatta Forma has produced work that is both exquisitely written and is a good story. Personal view but I feel that too often writers fail at one or the other - beautifully... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Brian Morris
4.0 out of 5 stars Why are you here?
Secrets, memories and living to survive. This skilfully portrays the disconnect between well meaning foreigners coming to Sierra Leone to 'help' without really understanding what... Read more
Published 8 months ago by J. A. West
4.0 out of 5 stars A really good read
The characters are well drawn; and the plot is easy to follow without being facile. It`s worth seeing the video clip with the author (to be found on the Web), but probably only... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Borritt
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