The most important things in life . . . are not things at all.
Nora is fleeing London for her childhood home in Dublin after her heart is suddenly torn apart. Back home, she learns she has inherited all of her grandmother’s worldly belongings – a feather shrug, a Tiffany mirror, a gold locket, and many more precious things besides.
With no means of keeping them, and not able to bear auctioning everything off, Nora decides to open The Memory Shop so each object is matched to a perfect new owner.
Soon Nora begins transforming the lives of those around her through the items she pairs them with, helping them find new happiness in unexpected ways. Now if she can only let go of her own past, she might just surprise herself . . .
An uplifting novel set in a charming Irish community, about love, family and finding your way.
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 4.36 out of 5
The photographer had already turned way and was hunched over his laptop. The make-up and hair girls were packing their things. The model had pulled on a dressing gown and was heading for the lane at the back of the studio with her phone to her ear and a cigarette dangling from her lips.
This was the moment that always broke Nora’s heart a little. When the lost shot had been taken and it was time to destroy the illusion she had created.
I think I’m like a bus. You wait for ages for a post from me (ok, maybe you don’t) and then two come along at once!
I think I’ve said that before. I’ll probably say it again. I’m not very original.
When I last briefly mentioned The Memory Shop I mentioned two things:-
- That it was a surprisingly delightful read that I gave four stars to
- That I didn’t know what I would classify it as
Let me unpick the second point.
I referred to it as literary but I got that wrong – I meant to say contemporary because it very much is a contemporary book. It’s not ‘highbrow’ enough to be considered literary. It’s not a romance as such but it does focus on romantic relationships and the complexities of love with most of the threads of the story having a romantic angle. Not that this means all of the characters stories end with romance or even that you want them to.
I also referred to this story as having some magical realism. Now this book is definitely not one that will be categorised to the masses as magical realism and probably isn’t even ‘officially’ magical realism but this is where I struggled with a classification because in a way I could see some magical realism elements.
This story is about Nora who goes to Ireland to sort through her deceased grandmother’s things. She can’t keep them and doesn’t want to sell them to individuals who will just see them as soulless material items and so she creates the memory shop of the title.
She sells each item with a story. Each item that belonged to her grandmother has a memory attached to it, maybe not always a happy memory, but there is meaning behind these things. A scarf isn’t just a scarf and a glass bowl isn’t just a bowl. Many were gifts from her grandfather to her grandmother chosen with care and brought because of love.
Each item has a placard telling any purchasers the story. Some items just draw some people in and they find meaning of what they buy for themselves. When certain characters buy a certain item we are introduced to their story in a vignette which frames Nora’s.
This is where I feel there is some magical realism. That each item draws someone in and somehow empowers or frees them in some way.
There is a young woman who buys a pair of earrings who sets out to leave one deliberately behind in the home of the married man she is having an affair with to expose him in order to get him to leave his wife for her. Then there is a woman who buys an exotic rug as a reminder of what her dreams were, bored of the life that her and her husband had, trapped by domesticity and conformity for so long that now they are retired they have nothing to say to each other anymore and separate. There is also a young woman who buys a scarf to cover the bruise around her throat that her long term boyfriend gave her when he choked her. Not for the first time.
The young woman keeps both antique earrings, not bearing to part one from the other and realises that she has been played for a fool, sympathises with his wife and leaves the man she was having an affair with. The retiree and her husband begin to work on self improvement separately and then when they meet and they stand on the rug they are reminded of their shared dreams of travelling and realise that time is not lost. The young woman who buys the scarf gets it caught on a gust of wind and it unravels and blows away exposing her finger tip shaped bruises. She takes a deep breath and decides to walk into a restaurant filled with the friends that love her, with her neck exposed, knowing that this is a step towards her freedom.
For me this is the magical realism. The book is about the power of items and stories and the power that those stories give. It’s almost a story in a story in a story and all the while we follow Nora as she navigates the entire picture.
In terms of a plot there isn’t much of a complicated one and instead its structured in a way to allow us to follow Nora’s journey but also to allow us to follow some shorter journey’s too from other peoples point of view. I think I must be liking this type of set up at the moment because it worked for me.
The only things that I suppose didn’t work for me was the rather infidelity heavy elements of some of the relationships and also the big secret that Nora’s grandmother was keeping didn’t seem to fit in. The story could have lost this and wouldn’t have suffered. It doesn’t impact the story negatively but then I don’t think anything was gained either.
I actually really liked this one and as I said it was a surprisingly delightful read. If you’re looking for a contemporary book that focuses on love (in all forms) that has a slight magical realism feel to it with uplifting hopefulness then this is for you!