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52
3.6 out of 5 stars
The Memory Game
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 6 April 2000
I chose this book simply as a crime novel with a good writing style in the first few pages, but it turned out to be much more substantial and satisfying than that, while remaining exciting to the end. By about halfway through one realises that it is "about" the nature of memory, and specifically recovered memory syndrome, but it goes on being a good crime novel with a sympathetic and believable central character. The dilemma at the heart of recovered memory syndrome - that one doesn't want to dismiss the reality of terrible things happening to young people who subsequently wipe out the trauma, but also that the recovered memories rely on the possibly unreliable memories of just one individual - is portrayed very movingly. There is a real twist in the plot which is psychologically quite persuasive. An exciting read that leaves you with something to think over afterwards.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 3 June 2009
If you're looking for an easy, untaxing read on the beach this summer, you can probably do a lot better than this poor effort. Repetitious, unrealistic with poor character development, I was glad to get this book finished to go on to something better.
The whole plot is built around an extended family, but the relationships within the family are 2 dimensional and barely credible. All is simplified into black and white, with no grey areas. Are families like that? I don't think so. When the daughter's body is found after she has been missing for 25 years, the family's reaction is almost like this was a minor blip thay had been half-expecting, and nothing really to get upset about! The plot goes downhill from there!
No more Nicci French novels for me!
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2001
Having just devoured 'Beneath the skin' by the same author which is absolutely brilliant I was really looking forward to losing myself in this book. I couldn't really do that- I couldn't really get into these characters at all, couldn't get into what should have been the emotions of the book. For instance when someone's daughter has been missing for 25 years and suddenly a body is found in the family's garden you would expect devastation but all the characters didn't seem to show the highly charged emotion I expected it all seemed very shallow. I really like to LIVE a book whilst I am reading it but this one just had me feeling like I was skimming the surface somehow. It's a shame because 'beneath the skin' is really mindblowing. I've just started 'killing me softly' and that also seems as though it is going to be a real treat. With 'the memory game' I just couldn't get the interest going really and sometimes it was a chore to pick it up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 July 2010
This is one of the few books I found engaging from the very first page and couldn't put down. Some reviewers have commented that no family would hide this kind of secret and act 'normal' but I don't think that's necessarily true. At no point does the author suggest this is a normal family (and let's be honest: who's family is normal?), in fact the very tension underlying the relationships seems to be the key that prompts the heroine, Jane, into her search for the truth and to walk away from her marriage. It's as though by removing this bandaid on her life she can truly see the dynamics of her family for the first time. I also found her character very appealing. She is clearly on the brink of a breakdown yet describes her situation with great wit. Some of the passages I found hilarious, some were truly chilling. It's a great mix and highly entertaining. So why not more stars? To be honest the ending fell flat on its face. The tension had been building and I was expecting a high-octane thriller finale. Rather disappointingly I had a strong suspicion who the murderer was early on in the book, and my own background in memory research meant I was never going to be convinced by the 'repressed memories' Jane recovers in her therapy. And in part my own knowledge probably clued me up to where the book was heading. This is a wonderful book for a beach read or winter afternoon but it's no literary classic. So kick you shoes off, get a cup of tea...and enjoy it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2012
I definitely count myself a Nicci French fan but do find some books better than others. This was on the 'lesser' end of the scale for me. The biggest problem for me was the number of characters in the extended family in the book... Something I often struggle with and obviously not a problem for everyone! I felt that there needn't have been so many and it did make it a bit heavy going for me at times. Also, for me personally, the overall situation and characters felt quite difficult to identify with (wealth/class). That's not always a bad thing, but in this case it always felt like a barrier to me really 'getting into' the novel.

Some elements were also left unresolved ...
For instance, I wanted to know if Alan had known all along or just realised when the diary was found... Maybe this is intended to be left for the readers' own interpretation, or maybe I missed something?
Would there not have been more objection/uneasiness on the perpitrator's part of the building work being proposed for that exact spot??

Strangely, I have to say that I did thoroughly enjoy reading it, but now looking back over it I think it did become a chore in the end. I felt the 'twist' coming, and although I didn't get it spot on, it makes me feel that the book was probably a bit predictable.

A "good read" but nothing much more for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 April 2015
Sometimes, it's interesting to read a first work after several later ones because you can then see clearly how a writer has developed as typical features and themes emerge. Here we discover many familiar aspects: the "I" female protagonist; the strong female perspective (I still don't understand the male contribution to the writing partnership); the enjoyment of smoking, cooking and walking; the self obsession; the over-wordy, meandering, unfocussed style, the prosperous bourgeois milieu (architects, authors, book illustrators, TV producers, directors, therapists). At first, the novel seems to favour the recovery of repressed memories through psychotherapy (as in cases of child abuse or psychological trauma) but in the end these prove unreliable and the book serves as a warning against false memories. One or two weaknesses cannot be ignored. The characterisation is not particularly plausible, especially the improbable reactions of the family to the discovery of the body of the long lost daughter (OK, let's get back to the wine and the lovely mushrooms we picked this morning). A number of reviewers have praised the stunning twist at the end but it comes across as pretty feeble to me in that the killer could just as easily have been any one of three or four others.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2009
I've read Nicci French before and liked their books, though I'm not terribly keen on their titles. I hadn't realised that this was their first foray into writing but now I know this, I am not surprised.

I agree with a lot of the previous negative reviews on here about character development. The extended family was so, er, extended that it was easy to get lost and know who was who. They would have done better by focusing on fewer characters and developing them further. Jane - the main character - wasn't exactly likeable but I didn't find her totally unsympathetic in her quest to find out what had happened to her murdered friend 25 years ago. The therapy sessions seemed a bit of a joke to me though, as someone else commented. If that was hypnosis, then it was poorly done.

I am not sure what to make of the book but to say I found it intriguing yet frustrating in equal measures. I couldn't put it down but the ending baffled me a little and I felt somewhat cheated by it. If you are a newcomer to French's work, then I agree that skipping this won't be a tragedy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2012
I have only read couple of these French books, but I'm getting the picture now and if I read any more then at least I can't get cross because I wasnt warned !

First, it is necesssary not to get too annoyed by the heroine, in this one it is Jane, whose smoking habits are dcoumented and dwelt upon with a truly leaden-footed emphasis ie "I needed a cigarette ..Is it OK if I smoke ( in a a therapists office !, or other people's kitchens !) .. I finished the packet... I found another packet ... I sat up til whenever smoking one cigarette after another ... I sucked the smoke down into ....." And so on and so forth , good god we get it , she smokes too much ! She is also able to absent herself from work all the time, at almost any time without any apparent repercussion.
Like other French heroines, she , whilst apprently having a nervous breakdown in one hand, on the other is able to carry on affairs, and do immense detective work, and this latter brings me to my second gripe at these books.

The police are portrayed as - well words fail me - as worse than incompetent, they are virtually non existent . The only officer detailed in any way is a woman DS who - sigh - has an affair with one of the famous Martello family, one who in real life would have been a suspect. Her character is quickly brought to tears and despatched . No other police work appears to a happen at all. Certainly the crime is 25 years old, but the milieu in which it happened is still going strong and all members of it alive and in their right minds. And there are dozens of them, many of whom play no part at at all in the story I should add. I must have missed it if any questioning of them ever happened , despite the fact that the body is found buried on their property, virtually at the back door , in a shallow grave. The burial site itself appears to be simply left once the body is removed. No SOCO, no forensics, nothing at all. This plot omission is made worse by the fact that the site turns out to have charcteristics vitally important to solving the crime . Oh I forget, there are some lists made and the police do look at these . I think.

Perhaps the apparently completely philopsophical manner in which the family take the finding of their 16 year old daughter/sister's skeleton lulls the police into not bothering. " Ah yes, very sad but it was a long me ago. No point in raking over the past is there. Let's just bury her again shall we ? Thanks officer, now, do you fancy a glass of shiraz ? " This apect , with better editing perhaps, could have been very gripping . Just who DID know what, when Natalie disappeared. In the book the only evidence given is some guy who says he saw Natalie after the crucial date. This is never checked or corroborated , but simply accepted, at the time and 25 years . Again, it turns out to be important.

Anyway, as has been made evident in other reviews, the crime is solved via the heroine's repressed memory work . Any psychologists reading this book must have cringed in horror at the portrayal of their profession. The sessions in the kitchen , the calling out at night, the huggings in doorways, and best of all, the taking of a patient to be an exhibit at a conference without asking or even warning her . Yes. Right.

I dont mind suspending a degree of disbelief nor do I think police or pychologists are all are infallible , but do let's have a bit of verisimilitude!

PS amongst the many things Jane drinks, one - I think it's port - is described as thick and purple and glugging nto the glass. Now, could you trust the judgment of anyone who mistook undiluted Ribena for port?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2007
The skeleton of the teenage Natalie is found in the backgarden of her family's country garden decades after Natalie's death. Jane, Natalie's best friend and married to Natalie's brother, is present when the body is found and suddenly finds herself caught up in Natalie's murder, hunting her own memories for the killer.

The premise for this novel isn't showy and over the top with gruesome deaths and pychotic serial killers. It's more Alfred Hitchcock than Wes Craven. I found 'The Memory Game' to be tense, subtle and haunting. It doesn't go for out and out car chases and extravagant chapter endings. That isn't French's style - French, instead, goes for beautiful description to establish the tone, mood and atmosphere of the book.From the very first paragraph the quality of the writing is evident and this does not relent. There's almost an elegance to it, which is emphasised by the setting.

This is French's first novel and it shows. This is slower paced (almost plodding in some parts) than her later work. This was the novel where French was the academic, forgetting formulas and writing a family murder mystery with clever twists and with a structure that is unfamiliar in most psychological thrillers, which I am stil unsure whether worked or not. This was a brave and clever attempt for her to make a name for herself to gain reviews in papers such as The Guardian, being the thinking thriller writer as opposed to being pushed aside for being trashy.

The Memory Game is a thriller for the average intellect. It is hard work in places due to the strange structure but it is worth reading.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 2002
With "Beneath the Skin" I knew who the killer was with the first murder, and therefore told myself smugly that I knew who the killer was in this one, too. The narrator talks too much about smoking and not eating when I wanted her to get on with the plot, but I was rewarded in the end with a real twist! No matter how much Jane talked about cooking, smoking, drinking, eating,not eating, and what she was wearing, something in the narration drove me on, and so the writers were obviously doing something right. Believe me, at times this thriller might seem not worth the trouble, but it is, and in retrospect I realize that the writers knew exactly what they were doing all along.
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