Most helpful critical review
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 2012
I feel distinctly in a minority finding myself unable to pile praise on this story as so many others have. Having read one previous novel by Lesley Pearse (Till We Meet Again), I liked it enough to see what else she had written. 'Remember Me' caught my interest me for its subject matter, and all the rosy ratings certainly left me in anticipation.
For a story based on the life of a real (and apparently daring) person, I was struck at how one-dimensional Mary Broad was painted, the way she was set apart from the other convicts: Mary (in her own voice) was kind and strong, and all the others bad and weak and the women all jealous of her. This theme played throughout the story to disturbing and undermining effect; it also felt an affront to the countless unremembered female and male convicts who endured long, slow, suffering deaths from hunger and disease while building Australia's first penal colonies. We kept being 'told' Mary was exceptional. Whether she was or nor, my only sense of her in this tale was of an ordinary person with a simplistic psychology, doing what she had to in order to survive. No bad thing, but in itself it doesn't make for extraordinary.
Reading about the horrific conditions the convicts had to endure during their months at sea left me wondering why it didn't move me more. The same with the telling of an historically documented incident when they finally reached Sydney Cove and everyone went ashore. A scene that should have made compelling reading, left me less than underwhelmed.
The second part of this book was definitely an improvement on the first half, which dragged. I recognise this is a novel, not a biography, and so licence has been taken with the truth. That wasn't the problem for me so much as the nature of the storytelling. Mary Broad's character simply never achieved depth. If you want an elementary read then this is OK. On balance, it didn't work for me. It had a powerful potential I felt it failed to realise.