on 20 July 2009
Of course there are readers/people who are not interested in the psyches behind any form of creativity, or the private lives of those who live and work around them. This book is not for them. It has been said that this book is over written. But how could it be anything else. The pain and questions of suicide never subside; the self beration, the constant "if only I had ...", the over-thinking... To bring all this back - (not to DREDGE it up, as it never disappears from mind) - must have taken Herculean energy. If you feel drained from reading the book, (and I did) this must have been huge for Bragg. For someone who has never found longlasting deep love, it seems to me hopeless that even when love was seemingly so rich, it still wasn't enough. How could it come to that? I feel lost now that I have finished the book, and the memory of it will stay with me. It will haunt me when I visit Oxford next month. All in all, it is so totally, horrifically human that it affects you on a very deep level, and fills you with acute sympathy for the protagonists - the real people involved.
on 18 May 2008
Over the past twenty years or so I have read virtually all of Melvyn Bragg's works of fiction, up through his three autobiographical novels, each published about two years apart. Early in 2007, when Amazon.co.uk offered "Remember Me..." as a preorder for April, I didn't hesitate. Only after I clicked the button did I notice that it was due not in April 2007, but 2008! I let the order stand (probably setting an Amazon.co.uk preorder record) and waited. When it finally arrived last month, I knew instantly that this was not a quick study, and as I read, I saw why #4 had not come as easily as #1, 2 and 3.
There are certain elements of Bragg's writing that I've come to expect, and all of them were present in this book: savory phrases ("...playing Blind Man's Bluff, bumping into the furniture of our old lives"); skillful evocations of time and place (Oxford and London of the '60s); clever literary devices (such as using the era itself as an unseen character in the story, a force powerful enough to jerk the other two primary characters around inside the plot).
But this time there was something I had not seen before: deep emotion; the author himself. This is the fourth in an ongoing autobiographical series about his own life. Yet up to now we have been presented with a sort of family album. Snapshots of "Joe" as a boy against the backdrop of an England at that time, looking back at a child wrestling with issues we presume he later overcame.
In "Remember Me..." there is such raw immediacy that, although it is 40 years past, it feels like now. The sense is that, as he was writing, a chunk of the writer was still back there, and he was bringing it forth for us to see, wounds still open and bleeding. As such, I see "Remember Me..." as not only the finest piece of fiction Bragg has written to date, but also the bravest, given his vulnerability as a public figure. I have been impressed by his writing skills in the past, but never much emotionally moved. I choked up toward the end of this one, something no book has inspired me to do in many years. I strongly recommend it for all the reasons noted above, and for its insight into the chasms and pitfalls of mental illness.
on 29 April 2008
I bought this book having just read a satirical summary in the "Guardian" newspaper. I have never read any previous novel by the author, but not having lived as a recluse, I know who he is. I have glanced at a biography.
"Remember Me" has many beautifully written and moving passages. It chronicles a loving, but perhaps doomed, relationship between a young, ambitious and soon to be successful Englishman and a French artist. As I read it I sought to grounds for criticism. The narrator was too omniscient; he could not know that! The point of view was lopsided. There was too much sentimentality. It only took a few more pages for my unspoken rebuke to be withdrawn apologetically. The device of having the `author\hero' communicating to his daughter about the novel as it developed, illustrating that `he' knew as well as any reader where false witness might occur made my little reflections seem carping. Perhaps the scenes illustrating the career progress of the main characters slowed the pace but they were necessary to clarify the context.
The narrator seems a little less secure with the French part of the equation. The presentation of Joe's parents was note perfect. The way the father connected with his new daughter-in-law was stunning.
The style of the writing is very accessible. The effort that it must have taken hardly shows on the page.
The emotional charge and honesty of perception is devastating.
on 14 April 2009
No book I have ever read before has ever come close to describing characters with such depth, which I know comes from the fact that they are based on real people, but still, these characters are beautifully crafted in excellent detail.
I loved the idea of the relationship between Joe and Natasha, and their love for each other. When I reached the end (in tears of course), I was left feeling torn between the ideas that maybe if Joe had been more attentive and not so self-obsessed at times he could have saved her, but also that Natasha's end had been marked out a long time ago for her, and would have eventually been her conclusion regardless of Joe's actions, as she was just too lost and damaged.
I felt a bit drained after reading this book as it is so emotional for the characters, and Bragg's writing takes you through those emotions also, he makes it possible for you to feel both Natasha and Joe's pain.
I am not great at writing reviews but what I will say is that I really enjoyed this book, though it does not have a happy ending, it is a great love story with characters worth remembering.
on 23 February 2009
Melvyn Bragg has always seemed to me a distant figure, popping up on Sunday nights on "The South Bank Show", producing and presenting interesting radio programmes, the author, I knew, of several well-received novels. Nothing had prepared me for the full, visceral force of "Remember Me",a novel which has haunted my life for the last ten days and which has just left me goose-bumped and sobbing.
Why so wonderful? Let me count the ways.. Firstly, it is a note perfect evocation of a time and a place, 1960s London. Secondly, it is an exhilarating exploration of young, idealistic love among books , travel and artistic ambitions. And...and then it stares in the face something so terrible so unflinchingly that one can only marvel at Bragg's sheer guts at confronting and delving so deep into his own psyche, with so much remorse and so much guilt and so little redemption. This is a hugely important, brave milestone in English literature and sets the standard for his more fashionable contempories to follow
on 17 April 2009
I have never read any Bragg before and I knew nothing of its autobiographical nature. In that sense it stands alone for me as a book with extraordinary integrity. The characters unfold and deepen through the introspective dialogue and narrative. The book describes with agonising poignancy and sensitivity the struggle to retain the notion of love against the subjectivity of memory and experience. It is a book that requires commitment and engagement with a difficult and emotionally raw text.
on 20 October 2009
Remember Me, I believe, is a semi-autobiography by Melvyn Bragg. It is a dense book about deep love, intellectual aspirations, troubled minds and lost souls. He writes to acquaint his daughter with the life he shared with her fiercely intelligent, artistic but fragile French mother from their first encounter as students at Oxford. Places in France are beautifully drawn and London is described as it was in the Sixties. Throughout the book family members are introduced, friends and work colleagues, all of whom have some bearing on their lives. The final parts of this most sincere and moving gem of a book are painful to read, Mr Bragg is a brave author.
on 3 September 2008
I've been a fan of Melvyn Bragg for as long as I can remember - at least forty years and he never disappoints me. Remember me is no exception - beautifully written with (dare I say it?) resonances of the Hughes/Plath relationship. A beautiful and fitting conclusion to the story of Joe Richardson (Melvyn Bragg?) I didn't want it to end.
on 22 April 2014
Having read about Joe's life in Wigton, and been thoroughly absorbed in its 'Westcumberlandness', I had a clear view of what he looked like, both his appearance and his demeanour. But this book took my breath away and left me with a tear in my eye. I have always had enormous respect for Melvyn Bragg, his writing and his TV and radio crusade to bring 'the Arts' to everyone, but I know little, to nothing, about his life, except that he was a Cumbrian. With 'Remember Me' the face of Joe disappeared and the face that I saw was Melvyn Bragg's own. The journey through his relationship with Natasha, and Marcelle, drifts in and out of everyone's life, at times we can all recognise similarities with each other's lives. But in this book Mr.Bragg seems to just let the dam burst. How much is experience and how much is fiction, I don't know, but I was gripped with this tale. It is unutterably sad and allows you to muse on the shadows of you own past. A wonderful book.
on 6 July 2009
I've never read any books by Melvyn Bragg before, and was given this as a gift.
I have to admit, it was a bit of a slow start, as I tend to read "easy" chick lit style books that can be devoured in 48 hours, but as I started to get used to the style of writing, I found it easy to sympathise and connect with the characters.
I particularly liked the somewhat cryptic style of writing, where the author would divulge small snippets of information every now and then, which would get my brain wondering...
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone patient who likes this type of analytical style, as I found it to be very moving. For anyone impatient who prefers fast conclusions and snappy fates, this isn't the book for you!
I would almost call it a modern day Jane Austen type novel...