Memory | Stand-Alone | ISBN 9781408326510 | Orchard Books, 2013 | 4.5 out of 5 Points
“This is a book about a ghost called Story. She’s lost in the city – alone, afraid and without her memory. Then she meets Jude, a boy who sees the dead. And he is the only one who can help her remember…
Jude Finney has a special talent: He can see the dreams of the dead. Or ghosts, as you might call them. In Highgate Cemetery, in a world between reality and dreams, he meets the ghost of Story, a mysterious girl, who knows thousands of stories but can’t remember her own. But Jude is sure that Story is still alive somewhere in London. And that it’s time to find her, before it’s too late.”
I think we can all agree that this book’s cover isn’t doing it any favours. I liked “Heaven”’s cover well enough but this one? Nah. I’m kind of sorry for Christoph Marzi that his beautiful, unusual ghost story got played like this since this cover really doesn’t say: “Pick me up immediately!” In fact, it weirds me out in the worst way. Is the girl on the cover supposed to be Story? What is up with her face? What is that black smudge she’s lying in and why wasn’t it blended into the white background better? No, this is not a good cover and I don’t blame anyone for not giving “Memory” a second glance at the bookshop. It’s too bad really and I wish whoever is responsible for this design would have tried a little harder.
HEAVEN OR STORY? – I DON’T REALLY CARE!
“Memory” is a stunning Young Adult book, just like Marzi’s previous novel “Heaven” was. The books are actually very similar which might have to do with “Memory” being an indirect sequel to “Heaven”, judged by the similar covers, titles and overall atmosphere. In fact I thought the two were a bit too similar actually. The premise is almost the same: The male protagonist finds a weird girl in an unusual place and it turns out he needs to find something she’s missing to save her life before time runs out. In “Heaven” it was Heaven’s heart. In “Memory” it’s Story’s whole body. So basically it’s the same story all over again. But the peculiar thing is, I didn’t mind at all. Marzi is an amazing writer with a knack for details and characters so he managed to make “Memory” unique enough for me to thoroughly enjoy it, even though the story is kind of the same.
I loved Jude and Story. I loved them so much, even more than David and Heaven. Jude is such a cutie, really. He’s a bit mousy at first glance, which earned him the nickname “mousy grey boy”, but once you get to know him better, he’s a fascinating character and quite different from your usual YA boys. Is he pretentious? Oh my god, yes. But he was also interesting and I just found myself really liking him which is probably because Marzi made sure I really got to know him. I often think YA heroes and heroines aren’t fleshed out enough which is why I seldom find myself caring about them. I’ve never had this problem with Marzi and I didn’t have it this time either. We get to know a lot about Jude Finney and even though he’s a bit judgmental of his peers and your typical pretentious seventeen year old, you’ll like him.
Same goes for Story. The thing about Story is, you don’t get to know a lot about her at all because she doesn’t know a lot about herself. Jude finds her one night in Highgate Cemetery, sitting on a bench without her memory – and without her body. She’s in the process of turning into a ghost and Jude and Story set out to find her dying body, before it’s too late. I loved Story a lot too. I especially liked that she’s a popular girl in real life. She’s not your usual nerd girl love interest, she’s not “not like the other girls”, she’s not special because she’s oh so different, she’s special because she’s a well-rounded character that you soon find yourself liking quite a lot. I loved her a lot and I loved watching her and Jude finding out more and more about her background.
I loved all the characters in this book actually, especially the ghosts of Highgate Cemetery who Jude considers his friends, and Miss Rathbone, the mysterious fox lady. As I’ve said, Christoph Marzi writes really good well-rounded characters and that goes for the main characters as well as all the background characters. My favourite is probably Gaskell, a former star of British glam rock, who now spends his afterlife throwing opulent parties for all the other ghosts in his crypt at Highgate Cemetery. Isn’t that droll? I love it.
DON’T TOUCH THE STONE ANGELS OR ELSE!
I’ll be honest, “Memory” had me at Highgate Cemetery. I love Highgate Village and Highgate Cemetery so much, it’s actually ridiculous. I’ll read almost anything set in or around Highgate and I think “Memory” is one of my favourite Highgate novels (with Asa Bailey’s “The Vampire of Highgate” being the worst, in case you were wondering). Marzi is an amazing writer and his descriptions of Highgate Village and the big fairytale cemetery are spot on and so pretty that I didn’t even mind how many of them there were. No seriously. Marzi likes details and he likes to describe them. I like this, especially when the descriptions in question are beautiful and authentic descriptions of London, but it’s not for everyone so consider yourselves warned.
Christoph Marzi just really knows London well and it’s obvious he loves the city a lot. So do I so I really enjoyed his London, which is a magical place always. In “Heaven” he took us to the rooftops of London, in “Memory” he’s showing us the city’s famous cemeteries: The Magnificent Seven, as they’re called. “Memory”’s atmosphere is magical but chilly at the same time, it’s charming and at the same time thrilling. It’s just a typical Marzi book, he’s really got his own style. My guess is if you like British TV programmes, you’ll like Marzi basically. Sometimes I even found myself wondering how much Marzi himself was influenced by British programmes to be honest. The stone angels that roam the cemeteries of London looking for victims did remind me of “Doctor Who”’s famous weeping angels a lot. Like, a LOT. I liked all the little tributes to “Mary Poppins”, because it was obvious they were tributes, but the angels felt kind of copied. Marzi makes them his own and they do tie in very well with the cemetery setting but I wish he’d modified them a bit more.
They were fucking scary nevertheless. Marzi knows how to do scary very well actually. His villains are also pretty creepy. Just like “Heaven”, “Memory” is a slow book that builds a lot before the action hits but once it hits, it hits hard. I thought it was awesome. I loved the plot twists too and there are a lot of them. I would have never guessed the ending either and I loved every little thing about it. “Memory” was just a very satisfying read for me: It’s a beautifully written dark fairytale with a distinct chilly atmosphere, great characters, a really well thought out plot with lots of twists and great resolutions. I loved almost everything about this book. Yeah, almost. For one I wish it didn’t have the same premise as “Heaven”. I didn’t really mind but I still think it’s a bit lazy. Then there’s the angels of course. I loved the angels, really creepy stuff, but I would have liked them even better if they hadn’t reminded me of “Doctor Who”’s weeping angels so much.
ALL THE LONDON FOXES SPEAK JAPANESE NOW?
I also wasn’t here for the random Japanese mythology. This book is set in London. It has zilch Japanese characters but for some reason, the foxes guiding the graveyards are called kitsune. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the foxes. There are so many urban foxes in London, you won’t believe it until you’ve seen it so I thought having foxes guarding the cemeteries was another great little detail that made “Memory”’s London setting feel authentic. But I don’t think they should have been called kitsune. Call me nitpicky but it bothered me a lot every time it came up. Why use a Japanese word? “Fox spirit” or whatever would have done just as well. How did the English foxes come to call themselves by a Japanese name? It just didn’t make sense to me at all and it read like Marzi might have thought kitsune sounded cool, so he used it. It felt random and out of place to me, especially since it wasn’t explained how Japanese mythology came to be a well-established thing in English cemeteries.
That’s literally the only thing I really didn’t like though. The rest of “Memory” was a stunning unique ghost story, haunting, beautiful, dark. I came to really like the characters and was actually sad to leave them behind once the book was over. The authentic London setting, rich with little details that make the city come alive, might not be for everyone since there are quite a lot of descriptions and the story is slow-burn which is also not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like good old-fashioned gothic romance, you might want to give “Memory” a shot. Despite the weird cover. Here, take a look at the original German cover. It evokes “Memory”’s haunting atmosphere so much better.
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