THE MEMORY OF LOVE, by Linda Olsson, is a small novel that speaks volumes.
Marion is a woman in middle-age who divorces her husband in London and takes off for parts unknown. Unknown, that is, until she reaches the outback region of western New Zealand. What is she running from? And what is she running to?
Ika is the young boy saved from an abusive caretaker by Marion. The scene where Marion finds Ika on the beach is quite moving and truly gets the story going.
George is the glue between Marion and Ika. The man who also has found New Zealand by running. But his running is quite different.
THE MEMORY OF LOVE begins a bit slow. But keep at it. It is totally worth it. The prose is splendid. The story unfolds at a snail’s pace and will have you reading longer than you had planned. It can easily be read in one sitting.
Marion has much in her past to hide from. Olsson reveals Marion’s past in pages stuffed into chapters. There are shocking revelations. You begin to see how Marion has become a slave to her past. Each snippet is a correlation to the present. When Ika appears, obviously abused, Marion immediately decides she must take him in. Later we see why that came so naturally. She was the caretaker of her baby brother so many years ago.
But who is Ika? Where has he come from? Why would a young boy be alone? What about his family? Olsson shows us all this, and more.
Linda Olsson writes New Zealand like she lives there. That’s because she does. That is, when she’s not living in her native Sweden. The remote beach on the western coast is perfectly depicted with the scents and sounds of its nature. I felt quite drawn to this paradise. Her rustic cottage right on the beach calls to me, even now.
In one scene, Marion is reflecting on her older, middle-aged body. It made me smile as it will anyone of a certain age. ” I brush my hand along my arm and realized it was no longer the skin of a young woman. Strange, I thought, how you live inside your body and somehow take it for granted that it would always be the same.”
I wonder how many people, women in particular, have fantasized about leaving their old lives and disappearing. I know I have. But that is all it ever has been: a fantasy. So, books like this, where the character takes off from their normal life and begin again, appeal to me.
A secret is kept throughout the book, until near the end. It is something you can not possibly guess. It is shocking. It tells what happened to Marion when first she arrived in New Zealand. And it is my favorite part of the story. Told with emotion and simplicity, this revelation will knock your socks off.
I read ASTRID & VERONIKA some years ago. I loved it. Have been waiting for this new one. Olsson does not disappoint. In fact, she surpasses my expectations.
How did Olsson arrive in New Zealand? Her husband was offered a position in Auckland in 1990. Off they went, kids and all.
In these days of corporate everything, mortgages that stun and astound us, jobs that often bore and try us, this novel is refreshing and intriguing, and it begs us to rethink our lives.
You’ll be pleased to find this little diamond is out in trade paper form. And the generous people at Penguin Group sent me my review copy. Thanks so much!