Memory House – Bette Lee Crosby
Genre: Magical realism, women’s fiction, chick-lit
Ophelia Browne has a gift – she can relive memories made by others. She just has to place her palms to a bicycle, sleep with a watch below her pillow, carry around a ball in her pocket for a few days, and memories of the people who owned these things come rushing to her. If the memories are willing to offer themselves to her, that is. However, Ophelia is getting on in years – she is over 90 now – and knows that she doesn’t have much time left on earth. Soon enough, she has to find someone worthy to pass on her gift, someone whose soul is beautiful, someone who will believe in magic and all that she has to tell them. And then, there are the secret remedies held within the precious herbs she tends to in her garden.. those need to be passed on too. Will Ophelia find someone like that? What is she putting into motion by trying to find a potential successor for her gift? This, and more, forms the storyline of Bette Lee Crosby’s Memory House.
I had been wanting to read this book for ages, and ordered it immediately when I recently found a good deal. I did like it but, sadly, I didn’t grow to love the book as much as I had expected I would. The story is magical and enchanting, yes. The storyline is very interesting, yes. The book did keep me engrossed till the very end, but the writing felt very, very plain and simple. The story was told in a highly straightforward manner, with none of the flourishes that I have come to expect out of a magical realism book. The book starts off well, but the storyline gets more and more predictable as it progresses. It touched my heart at several places, but I failed to really connect with the characters. All in all, I would say this was a book that had a lot of potential (at least for me), but which failed to deliver a punch. Or, maybe, it is just me?
The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain
Genre: Chick-lit, translated works, women’s fiction, contemporary fiction
Parisian bookseller Laurent Letellier is going about his daily business one fine day, when he comes across a woman’s handbag on the streets. He picks it up, intending to deposit it at the nearest police station. However, circumstances force him to take the bag home, where he rummages through it so as to find some clue to locate its owner. A red notebook within the handbag catches his fancy, and he can’t help but read through it – and read through it he does, over and over again. He is struck with the urge to locate this woman who has shared her innermost thoughts in the red notebook; he is charmed by her; he is intrigued by her. What does the red notebook contain? Will Laurent be able to find its owner? And who will the owner of the bag and the red notebook be? You will find this and more in Antoine Laurain’s The Red Notebook.
With a premise like that, how do I not pick up this book? Of course I had to! Sadly, though, the book turned out to be a tad disappointing. It starts off well, and Laurent’s efforts to locate the handbag’s owner are sure to grab the reader’s attention. As the story progresses, though, I felt the storyline became too predictable, the characters a little too weird, and things starting falling into place a little too smoothly. That, sort of, put me off.
The Red Notebook is a translation from the original work in French, a well-done one at that. This is a novella, actually, one you can read through in the course of a day. Sadly, it failed to bowl me over. I’ve heard great things about The President’s Hat, French Rhapsody and The Portrait, other novellas authored by Antoine Laurain, and I’m planning to give those a shot, too. Do try this one out – maybe you’ll like it better than I did?
Have you read any of these books? What did you think about them?
What are you reading at the moment?