Rating: 4 / 5
I have had THE MEMORY POLICE by Yōko Ogawa on my TBR for what feels like a long time after seeing a few great reviews, though I believe it was only translated into English from the original Japanese last year. With the return of the ability to pick up books at my local library, now seemed the perfect time!
THE MEMORY POLICE is set on an island. In this unnamed location, things have been disappearing from ribbons to flowers. When the island’s inhabitants wake up there’s a feeling that something is a bit different and they are compelled to get rid of the no longer known object whether it be by throwing things into the water, burning them or otherwise destroying them. Over time, these objects are fully forgotten from memory and any lingering thoughts of the object lose any feelings tied to them.
Some people on the island have the ability to remember. Our main character’s mother was one such woman and she has remnants of the forgotten things hidden beneath her house, a rebellion against the way of the world. On the opposite side are the Memory Police, a very severe organization that goes around removing any references to forgotten items in text or photo or even in one’s memories. To admit that you can remember puts your very life in danger.
This was such an interesting read and I really enjoyed it! While there is some plot to this one, it really is character driven and perhaps even more so idea driven (is that even a thing?). This really takes a look at the what ifs of memory and loss and their impact on daily lives. This isn’t a book I’d recommend if you need concrete answers or a logic system behind the disappearances to enjoy the read.
The world is so interesting in how the people just willingly give up what they once held dear. If your job was to be a musician and suddenly the world is without musical instruments, the average person just accepts this and starts a new job. Our main character is a writer and she is trying hard to hold on to the written word and the people in her life, but she doesn’t have the ability to remember so her world is slowly falling apart.
The writing in THE MEMORY POLICE is beautiful and I defintely want to add more from Yōko Ogawa to my TBR. I did see that the Reading Women podcast will be featuring this novel as one of their book picks for this month’s Women In Translation theme so I will definitely be checking that out!