The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa (Book Review)

37004370Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopia

Summary: A deft and dark Orwellian novel about the terrors of state surveillance, from the acclaimed author of The Housekeeper and the Professor

On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, things are disappearing. First, animals and flowers. Then objects–ribbons, bells, photographs. Then, body parts. Most of the island’s inhabitants fail to notice these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the mysterious “memory police,” who are committed to ensuring that the disappeared remain forgotten. When a young novelist realizes that more than her career is in danger, she hides her editor beneath her floorboards, and together, as fear and loss close in around them, they cling to literature as the last way of preserving the past. Part allegory, part literary thriller, The Memory Police is a stunning new work from one of the most exciting contemporary authors writing in any language.

My thoughts: This book cannot be rated because it surpasses that structure of confinement that a star rating can give. I picked this book up from my library after seeing it in B&N and reading the blurb, “a haunting, Orwellian novel about the terrors of state surveillance.” I was hooked from the beginning. It takes a lot for me to almost finish a book in one sitting, but this story was so haunting and compelling, like a sleepy nightmare unfolding before you while you are unable to look away.

Told in a way that relies heavily on the main character’s internal dialogue, this story follows an unnamed island full of obscure characters whose names don’t matter because it’s their existence and being that sticks with you the most. The lack of definitive details about the characters and the island itself, similar to 1984, is so striking and cryptic that I was drawn forward to read more because, the moment you begin this novel, you know it won’t end well, and yet I read on.

I’m a sucker for a good, quiet drama that doesn’t offer definitive answers to the questions I had swirling in my mind. I loved how murky and foreboding this entire story was. I loved how we were thrust into the middle of a world already controlled by a higher being who never makes an appearance but looms over the entire narrative. I loved how each character’s history and existence itself was obscure in a way that didn’t make this story feel as though it were lacking in substance.

While this story may seem murky, it alludes to how easily we, as a society, are so quick to forget and toss aside memories and pieces of history to adjust to our current situations without questioning how easily we can let memories of the past float away from our minds.

I could write a thesis about how moving and stunning this story was, but I’ll leave it at that. This will be on my mind for years. I won’t let it escape my memory. 

Book Info: Goodreads | Barnes and Noble | Amazon