[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
I hadn’t read anything by Ogawa in 10 years or so, and I admit I don’t really remember anymore all the details, but I do remember I tended to like this author. Hence my seizing the opportunity to get and read this one.
It is a strange story in a way, in that, all in all, the characters are not so memorable themselves (their names are never revealed), and yet still leave an impression due to what they are going through. As inhabitants of an island where certain things disappear from memory at random, they are constantly faced with not knowing what the next thing to go will be, with the Memory Police coming to enforce this by making sure people get rid of all traces of the now-forgotten things (including also getting rid of those who are able to remember), and where one question lingers at the back of many minds: will the people themselves be forgotten someday?
The novel follows a woman who writes novels for a living, and whose mother was one of the islanders who retained their memories. While the narrator is affected by the disappearances, and does her best to lie low and be an abiding citizen, she also does uphold a tiny streak of rebellion, up to the day she decides, with the help of an old friend of the family, to hide someone who remembers in a storage space between two floors. As the disappearances increase, and the Memory Police searches more and more homes and arrests more and more people, not only does she have to face the fear of being discovered, but also her fears of what will happen in the end.
This said, the story is less about the dystopian state of the island (the size of the island itself is never specified: it feels like a small island with just one town, and at the same time it must be bigger than that), or even about providing an explanation as to the collective, gradual amnesia taking hold, and more about memories, about how various things are important for us, about exploring what forgetting could mean In time, the inhabitants lose the names of what vanished, and even when presented with a surviving item that escaped the police, said item doesn’t elicit anything in them. And there lies another question: are memories precious in themselves, or only for as long as they feel precious to us? The narrator constantly struggles with this, as another character does their best to help her recover her memories of disappeared things and she’s never sure this can even happen.
Woven into the narrative is also the story the narrator (an author) is working on, that of a typist who’s lost her voice and communicates with her lover by writing on her typing machine. At first, I wondered how this was supposed to tie with the main story, and was a little afraid it was here for flavouring more than anything else—but it does tie with it at some point, and in a very relevant way.
Conclusion: 3.5 to 4 stars. In terms of narrative and of memorable characters, this is not the most striking book ever, but it has the sort of gripping, haunting quality that won’t let go.
It's actually more like 3.5 stars. The story confused me a lot. The first part of the story was very uplifting and funny but then it changed and turned into an awful and depressing book. There was a moment when I just stood up and poured myself some wine before I could go on reading.
I actually liked the main character Sky. She was very confident and didn't care about other people's opinion very much. I was laughing my head off, when she added stuff so that the insulting notes on her locker would be more artistic. It also didn't bother me how she and Six called each other. My friend read the book in English and was upset about the words Six and Sky used while talking to each other. I read the book in my mother tongue, so maybe those words the translator used weren't so offensive in Estonian. Or maybe we are just different people who react differently to words like that. The other very funny moment was when Sky sent a message to a wrong person by accident. I loved that Colleen Hoover created a character who didn't know much about computers and mobile phones. The author actually sent a message that you can live a full life without technology as well.
Holder wasn't such a pleasant character. His temper made me careful. I also didn't like how the author romanticized sneaking into a girl's room in the middle of the night. It's not romantic, its creepy as hell to let a boy you barely know climb into your bed in the middle of the night. It makes me so mad, when authors use that in a story.
Still, I liked Sky and Holder as a couple and my biggest regret is that they didn't get any professional help. In my opinion all three (Sky, Holder, and Karen) needed it.
I have mixed feelings about this book. Yes, it was so good, I had to read one chapter after another, but I'm also really confused. I'm not sure I liked it. Does it make any sense? How do I rate it?
I've been thinking about it. I liked the excitement and new characters. The story was well paced and the setting just as spooky or even more than in the first book. But still, I'm confused, and I don't like it - the confusion, and the fact I have to wait a few months until the third book is being translated into Estonian. Because I started it in my mother tongue, I'm going to finish the series in my mother tongue as well.
I still have my doubts but here and now 4 stars. You can be sure that five minutes from now it would be 3 stars. I am confused :(