On reading: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Title: The Memory Police

Author: Yoko Ogawa

From the back: Hat, ribbon, bird rose.

To the people on the island, a disappeared thing no longer has any meaning. It can be burned in the garden, thrown in the river or handed over to the Memory Police. Soon enough, the island forgets it ever existed.

When a young novelist discovers that her editor is in danger of being taken away by the Memory Police, she desperately wants to save him. For some reason, he doesn’t forget, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for him to hide his memories. Who knows what will vanish next?

The gist: I’ve seen people refer to this book as a ‘dystopian thriller’. But I don’t think thriller encapsulates the sense of pervasive calm, the feeling of inevitability that Ogawa so perfectly steeps the novel in.

The Memory Police has an almost dreamlike pace to it, and it was a book that I took my time with, lingered over. It’s both beautiful and haunting. Where other novels might throw in explosions, here there’s moments of tenderness, moments of thoughtfulness. You find yourself holding your breath in the fragile peace. It’s horror whispered in the quietest of tones, which makes it all the more sinister.

The novel has layers to it that I’m still unwrapping after the reading. Fable, allegory, meditation. It’s all of these things and more.

It’s the first of Ogawa’s books that I’ve read and it’s not going to be my last.

Absolutely recommended.

Favourite line: Memories are a lot tougher than you might think

Read if: You want a quietly haunting read that you’ll want to linger over

Read with: A stretch of uninterrupted time

Get it: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

ARC copy gratefully received from Netgalley and Random House UK, Vintage Publishing, Harvill Secker

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