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on 10 October 2010
In The Memory of Love Aminatta Forna once again demonstrates her extraordinary skill in telling stories. The characters of this beautiful, tragic, shocking and sometimes funny story remained in my thoughts for weeks after reading this book. The setting is Sierra Leone, a West African country just breathing peace after a war that raged across the nation for nearly a decade. Through a series of events that take the reader back to some of the horrors of human behaviour during war, the grace of selfless heroes during peace and the tragedies of love and desire, different characters from different backgrounds are brought together in a way that represent the diversity of human personality.

This story brings to life an interesting variety of characters that challenges us to think about human motivation - in love and war. It questions our assumptions that the movement of development and those who implement it are all motivated by a sense of altruism. This book is honest in illustrating that personalities drive achievements and while shows how a country like Sierra Leone may attract some unscrupulous visitors, it also celebrates the intense compassion and self-sacrifice people are wiling to make in order to help others.

This is a remarkable piece of artistry that strokes every emotion and leaves you exhausted and inspired by the experience... very beautifully written. A MUST read.
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on 23 December 2011
How can I persuade you to read this exceptional novel?

Aminatta Forna has a foot in two cultures: British and African. This gives her insight into both, and through the vehicle of this novel, she is able to comunicate these insights in a way that is both intelligent and compassionate.

The story is set in Sierra Leone. Adrian, a psychologist, has come to the country to work in a hospital, to see what he can contribute in the aftermath of a brutal civil war where, now that the physical wounds have faded, many emotional and psychological wounds remain.

Adrian is representative of the 'do-gooding' West, believing that all wounds can be healed. The doctors in the hospital see things differently, in particular Kai, a young surgeon, who has seen more brutality than he can ever convey. They become friends initally, but this friendship is tested and challenged as the differences between their two cultures and their life experiences becomes untenable.

This novel is multilayered. It is a history, it is a love story and it is a lesson in life. It might be set in a small hospital and academic community, yet it is grand in scope. As I reached the last few pages I felt a huge respect for Aminatta Forna, this novel is so much more than the 445 pages of text that I had read through.

Highly recommended.
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on 23 January 2013
I have read some of Aminatta Forna's work before, and enjoyed it.

This however is in a different camp. It's slow to get going, a hard read for at least 10 chapters. Eventually the flow gets going and there is some excellently researched detail in the novel, but the narrative seems contrived, forced, to portray the story of Sierra Leone (or Freetown at least) in a different light. The plot achieves neither the slow burn of a story unravelling nor the punch of an unexpected ending.

Too many coincidences to be plausible, a jarring and inconsistent finish out of context with the overall novel: these don't detract from the quality of the individual words, but alas the sum is not greater than its parts. Once it got going I enjoyed this book, but not so much I would want to read it again. Next!
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on 16 August 2014
I enjoyed this book, but had a problem with how the story was told. The author kept skipping backward and forward between two generations of time for all the main subjects. I found this confusing and feel that it spoilt the flow of the story for me in some respects.
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on 16 May 2012
I couldn't put this book down. Her characters have flaws but I felt for each of them. The author skillfully weaves her tale and draws you into their lives. Gradually their stories unfold and you realise how they are linked and how the war and its aftermath and the state of the country has affected them. I must admit I only had a hazy knowledge of the history of the country in which it's set, so her novel prompted me to read up about what happened there.

I don't agree with some of the reviewers that the format is confusing. Yes, the author goes back and forth in time and between characters, but because they are so strongly drawn I felt as if I knew each person really well.

It's not an easy or comfortable read, but it's well worth it. The details of the operations performed by Kai, the victims' accounts about the atrocities of war and the impact on their mental state are harrowing, but the story is both moving, powerful and thought provoking.

I'm planning to read her other novels now.
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on 17 September 2012
I was little apprehensive about this book that it was going to be quite a traumatic read which lead me through the trials of people facing up to the horrors of a brutal civil war and genocide. In fact it was much more about personal stories of love and its loss and the exposure to the horrors of what happened was relatively short-lived and self-contained, whilst the allusions to the sinister goings in the country at the peak of the trouble are clearly felt throughout. I loved this book and the journey it took me on and I was left feeling very satisfied, as if having dined on a very good meal.
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on 29 September 2013
One of the very best books I have read in a long time, it is subtle, thought provoking and evocative. The main characters Adrian the idealistic psychologist, Kai the war traumatised surgeon and Elias Cole the academic craving absolution through the retelling of his story are irrevocably linked together. Set in Sierra Leone and shadowed by the atrocities of war, the story revolves around choices made, the motivation behind them and the implications resulting. Written in language that brings the emotions and events vividly to life the book is one to be savoured as an experience. The story moves from past to present skilfully and it seems at times to delay the gratification of the reader as to what happened next or to protect one from overwhelming emotion
A superb book; the first I have discovered by Aminatta Forna and a stimulus to read her others.
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VINE VOICEon 1 October 2013
I had been recommended to read this book by several people and so my expectations were high.
The story is told very well and it is an important story to tell.
In the end though I didn't really engage with the characters and found the structure a bit chaotic.
I'm glad I read it though.
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on 2 June 2011
I suppose it's a little pointless reviewing a book that's already won awards and has had rave reviews in the press but belief the hype. Forna's prose is crisp and flows incredibly well. The characters are 3 dimensional and believable I you can almost taste contemporary Sierra Leone as you cut through the love, lust, violence and depravity. The book is also well researched and informative. It's certainly one that I will keep going back to again and again.
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on 13 January 2014
Secrets, memories and living to survive. This skilfully portrays the disconnect between well meaning foreigners coming to Sierra Leone to 'help' without really understanding what went on here during the war and before. Much cannot be 'fixed' like the surgeon in the book repairs wounds, but even he cannot fix the deeper wounds. It asks questions about the complicit silence which remains - people cannot forget, but neither can they talk about what happened without re-opening the sores and unleashing who knows what. How far can you go in looking after yourself and your family at the expense of others?There are enough mental health issues here for a lifetime's work for a legion of psychiatrists. Most people will get no help, but will have to find their own way to continue surviving. On first reading I found the mixing of past and present a bit difficult at times, but on re-reading it was clearer.
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