Other people’s memories are never your own , no matter how much you might think they are. But you can still share them.
If one hasn’t guessed by the above quote and the book’s title, David Whitehouse’s third novel focuses on memory. Saying that Whitehouse goes about this in a unique way.
The first instance of memory is during the first chapter when a botanist discovers a black box recorder in a whale. As we all know the black box recorder is the ultimate memory machine and this discovery leads us to the seemingly separate timelines of two other characters in the novel.
The second section takes place in modern day Britain and the main focus is on dove, an orphan who is trying to remember his past, more specifically his parent’s past lives’, while in the meantime he is trying to asses his own past in order to see if there are traits that he inherited from biological parents. As a result Dove decides that he will try find his parents.
The third section is based in New York during the mid 80’s and is about Peter, a cleaner who discovers a love letter while trying to identify a plant. This letter contains a list of rare plants and Peter dedicates the rest of his life looking for them.
The book jumps between each character and the further the reader proceeds, the more details emerge and that all the characters are intricately linked, superficially through flowers but on a deeper level it’s memory.
I have stated before that I am a huge fan of books which have this type of plot structure, so I had a lot of fun reading The Long Forgotten, trying to piece the details and attempting to find all links myself. However it’s not only the plot structure that I liked but also the fact that Whitehouse has created a small cast of memorable characters. Each one distinct and usually for a plot heavy book as this one, it quite a surprise when there are protagonists that one actually cares about. Not to mention Whitehouse’s writing style, whose sentences deliver a punch but retain a rough elegance.
Maybe there could be a small bias as I gravitate towards novels such as The Long Forgotten but I found this book to be a triumph in both style and structure. Sure there are books that follow this type of plot but not too many pull it off so well.
Many thanks to Picador for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.