If I had a star rating system, there are very few books that would get the maximum five stars, not because there are not a lot of absolutely wonderful books out there, but because if you give out too many five stars how do you distinguish the sublime from the merely brilliant.
So I would give The Memory Of Love four and a half stars, which is basically saying that it is a brilliant book, which I absolutely loved and urge you to read – but perhaps I didn’t have the same sense of emptiness and loss you get when you know you’ll never read a certain book again for the first time.
The Memory Of Love is the unhappy story of Sierra Leone since independence, in particular the aftermath of what one must rank as one the most brutal and bloody civil wars even in Africa’s memory.
It is told principally through three voices.
Adrian Lockheart, a British psychologist, who leaves a failing marriage and young daughter, for a Freetown asylum in a country where 99% of the population are suffering from post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or “living” as he’s told it’s called in Sierra Leone).
Elias Cole, a former academic, is Lockheart's only private patient and their sessions, which form much of the book's narrative, consist of Cole telling the story of his life from intimate diaries kept from the 1960s to the present.
And Kai Mansara, a local surgeon specialising in orthopaedic reconstruction. All three find themselves connected by the love of a single woman – and haunted by the feeling of lost love or what Mansara calls “the memory of love”.
Just as A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah's memoir of his life as a child soldier in the same war, this is moving, captivating and ultimately very human tale, even against an almost inhuman backdrop.
Read it, read it, read it.