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The Memories Locked In Each Other,
This review is from: Becoming Strangers (Paperback)
Louise Dean's first novel focuses on the stories of two couples who travel to a holiday resort in the Caribbean as a treat from their children. None of the four individuals particularly want to go on this holiday, but they feel obligated to because both couples realise that it might be the last one that they have together. Both couples are struggling to deal with illness. A middle-aged Belgian couple named Annemieke and Jan go on this holiday with the knowledge that Jan is suffering from a terminal cancer. The older English couple named George and Dorothy realise that Dorothy is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease. Despite the depressing idea of couples going on a final holiday while facing their own mortality may seem terribly depressing, Dean is able to suffuse the narrative with comic touches that gives it a great deal of humanity and makes it a rewarding, moving read.
This thirty-four year old writer has unusual insight into the complex way a long term marriage can develop a significance beyond the mere routines which come with the bonding of two people. In some ways the individual identity of each person becomes lost because the memories from each of their lives are inextricably linked to this other person. What the characters in this novel are struggling to decide is if they will lose their own sense of themselves if they leave their partner. George tries to meticulously record his past by writing a memoir and Annemieke attempts to completely rediscover a self worth in anonymous sexual encounters. Dean's writing is incredibly enjoyable to read in its richly detailed short chapters and startlingly emotional scenes. At the same time it is able to explore some very complex ideas about the nature of relationships and personality in original, meaningful ways. This is a unique and beautiful first novel.