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The Memory Box Paperback – 3 Aug 2000

3.9 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (3 Aug. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140284117
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140284119
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 404,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

"Susannah was apparently perfect, as the dead so often become": Margaret Forster's The Memory Box opens with the challenge which runs right through this book. How do you get to know the dead? How can the dead make you get to know them? In this case, by leaving a box of strange, and disconnected, objects through which a daughter, Catherine, learns to trace the contours of her mother's life and the depths of her own loss in never having known her. Susannah, her mother, died when Catherine was six months old; she is brought up, happily, by her father and step-mother. Only on their deaths does she open the "memory box" and enter into the everyday complexity (there's no melodrama here) of her family life. Was Susannah perfect? And why did her loving husband marry so soon after her death? What has Catherine missed in never having known her? Critically acclaimed for, amongst others, Lady's Maid and Mothers' Boys, Forster brings a keen, and unsentimental, eye to her (at times remarkably painful) topic. She is, also, the biographer of Daphne du Maurier, and Forster has taken on her legacy of menace and romance (think of Rebecca) in this intelligent, and compelling, novel. --Vicky Lebeau --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Born in Carlisle, Margaret Forster is the author of many previous novels including LADY'S MAID, MOTHER'S BOYS and SHADOW BABY. She has also written bestselling works of non-fiction, including biographies of Daphne du Maurier and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and HIDDEN LIVES and PRECIOUS LIVES about her own family. She lives in London and the Lake District.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Although it is obvious from the opening page that Foster is an excellant writer, this book is too heavy and depressing even for someone like me, who usually soaks up anything with a bit of real depth.
It seems as if Foster is trying to convey the multitude of feelings her heroine is exeperiencing, and in many ways she succeeds, but it felt to me like she was playing with depth when infact the characterisations were decidely shallow.
I struggled not to put the book down in frustration and boredom, and when I had finally finished it I was left with that terrible downer you can only get from a disappointing read.
If you're looking for something superficially 'deep' and angst ridden then read this book. Otherwise give it a miss.
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Format: Paperback
I read a short review of this book and decided to try it because I could identify with the subject. It is about a woman, Catherine, who's mother has died before she is old enough to remember her, which is exactly what happened to me. This is the first book that I have found dealing with this subject, and the more I read the more I could see myself in Catherine. The author has so much insight into what it is like to have never known your own mother, and also the fact that Catherine was an only child like myself made it even more amazing to read.
There were some parts of the book that made me gasp with our similarity, one phrase Catherine uses to explain her need for solitude is "only child syndrome". I have used that expression dozens of times to explain my need for my own space, and the way she finds it hard to keep friends as she doesn't put much effort into relaionships. I can identify with it all!
I think that only people who have lost their mothers at an early age will truly be able to understand this book, and I would like to thank Margaret Forster for helping me understand and come to terms with so many of my own emotions through reading it.
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Format: Paperback
The idea of this story is so good that I couldn't wait to read it. A girl, Catherine, is left a box by her mother, who died when she was a baby. Catherine discovers this box when she is thirty-one, the same age as when her mother had died. Inside the box are eleven objects, all of them meaningless at first, but when Catherine begins to examine each object, she finds new truths, not only about her mother, but about herself and her stern Aunt Isabella. Through these objects, Catherine finds that her mother was not the sweet and innocent woman that everyone likes to remember her as.
However, when I came to read it, the narrative is so full of (to me) irrelevant ramblings that I found myself skimming certain parts, just to get to a bit that might reveal something of what the memory box was intended to do. The book is obviously well-written but, as another reviewer put it, don't read it unless you are used to heavy-going reading!
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Format: Paperback
There's a wonderful central idea here,but I found Forster's prose style really got up my nose on occasions. For example, far too many dramatic verbs - people are forever rushing and jumping about the place. The central character is a spoilt brat it's quite difficult to feel sympathy for, and the other characters (with the exception of the dead mother)seem laboured over but not convincing. Too many happy coincidences make the plot creak - the heroine just so happens to get a job in Scotland when the storyline requires her to etc. etc. If you want a vindictive tale of a young woman and how she deals with her family/ past, try Lorna sage's Bad Blood, a much better book than this.
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By A Customer on 20 July 1999
Format: Hardcover
"The Memory Box" had all the makings of a great story -- a dying mother who chooses special objects to leave in a box for her six-month daughter who grows up without ever knowing her mother and who seems perfectly content with the love of her father's second wife. The novel had the potential of being another "Rebecca:" A seemingly beautiful and clever dead woman whose strong personality haunts the present until her terrible secrets are revealed. However, "The Memory Box" has no great denouement. The objects in the box seem unrelated to one another and to any overriding theme. Often it is not clear why the mother chose them and what they meant to her. At the end of the day, the dead mother is an uninteresting character as is the narrator, her daughter. Moreover, the author's unrelentingly stiff and dry prose undermines the dramatic tensions of the story.
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Format: Paperback
There are so many aspects of Catherine's life that I can totally relate to in The Memory Box. The things she has done in her life, similar events, feelings and thoughts so accurately mirror my own life that I often found myself underlining much of the text. My mother died when I was small and I too store inside of me a kind of frustration and anger because of this. It was such a relief to find a character who feels as I do about things, about people, about the past. It's made me realise that like Catherine, I too need to address such areas of my life in order to soothe the hole that aches within - then life can be more peaceful and satisfying. I'm now planning to design and create my own memory box using papier mache to store valued keepsakes. I'll be putting The Memory Box in there too, one of my treasured keepsakes. I just wish to thank Margaret Forster for writing this wonderful book - it means a lot to me.
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