THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS by @emily_barr #FloraBanks #FollowingFlora

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This is a book that shouldn’t work. But it does so brilliantly. The One Memory of Flora Banks tells the story of Flora, a girl with no recent memory and who astonishingly is the sole narrator. As she faces the world and herself anew every few hours the reader quickly becomes as one with Flora and her confusion, despair and growth.

As a result of treatment for a brain tumour at the age of ten Flora Banks has anterograde amnesia. The seven years following the operation are a void to her although she remembers much of the first decade of her life, especially her parents, her best friend, Paige and her brother Jacob. However each day she’s startled by her older self, family and friends as she wakes to fear what is happening, what has happened. No wonder she has ‘Flora, be brave’ written on one of her hands. 

Writing is one form of survival for Flora as she seeks to navigate her disjointed life and for her aid, she covers her hands and arms with words to remind her of her life, events, people. She also keeps a detailed notebook throughout the days which becomes vital for her sanity and further notes direct her to the book. 

svalbard-islandsThis is Flora’s life until one day something amazing occurs – she kisses a boy on the beach and remembers it!  The boy is called Drake and also Paige’s boyfriend. This pivotal event transforms Flora’s life and she will do anything to chase her memory of  Drake – even to the extent of travelling to the Artic alone in search of him. Her one and only memory in seven years. She’s sure he holds the key to her future self.

Memory forms not only ourselves and our lives but is also critical in storytelling with a beginning, a middle and an end. The One Memory of Flora Banks is unique in that the past, present and future become the now and along with Flora we face each new moment with a tangible sense of fear and anticipation. Her bewilderment and turmoil are brilliantly conveyed and the reader immediately mirrors the unpleasant surreal sensation of her existence. Life becomes akin to a waking dream, at times nightmarish, at times exquisitely beautiful. Whilst Flora’s life in Penzance is written with a more concrete grounding in reality, her time in Spitsbergen gains a stunning dreamlike quality whilst her new-found friends remind her about themselves and herself, helping her, losing her as she chases Drake further.

svalbard-ice-cave-trip-spitsbergenUnlike Flora, the reader has one major advantage – memory! With this ability, the brave, tenacious and surprisingly whimsical nature of Flora shines through and the remote location in the frozen depths of the Artic takes prominence, the bleak white landscape a metaphor of Flora’s blank spaces where her memories should reside. Gradually a more complete picture of her life is created, how her parents dealt with her illness, how her brother wanted her to have a more free, less protected life. His belief in her strength and ability to do anything is the driving force that carries her closer to Drake. But will she ever find him? Will it help her recover her memory?

This is a book that lived with me through the days even when not reading and to which I couldn’t wait to return to every evening. Its magical enchanted feel fluttered like lilting music over me, the absolute unknown a welcome break from formulaic writing.

Why on earth it is marketed under the YA (Young Adult) category beggars belief. This is truly a disservice to a superb book which would be loved by readers of all ages, so please don’t be put off by this pigeonholing.  

This is a wonderful unexpected unusual book which will delight you with its story, its originality and its deft and clever execution; I really can’t recommend this highly enough.

netgalleyI received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

Rating:                          5 out of 5 stars.

Publisher:                     Penguin

Price:                              £ 3.99      Kindle UK

                                          $ 4.39    Paperback  US

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72 thoughts on “THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS by @emily_barr #FloraBanks #FollowingFlora

  1. Fictionophile says:

    Thanks for this review. I am one of those people who religiously steers clear of any and all YA novels, but your review has made me feel interested in reading this book.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Lynne, I must admit that I was the same and stayed away from all YA books – I never looked at any. Until my son started to read them and recommending them, some of the grittier one and then some like these, thoughtful, unusual and a unique twist to them and all books which in my opinion are maligned and underread because of the categorisation. You could always take a peek…😀😃

  2. L. T. Garvin, Author says:

    A top notch review, Annika. You are so gifted in writing these, and I could spot beautiful poetry in your lines, “Its magical enchanted feel fluttered like lilting music over me…” for one, and several more lines that you wrote also. Memory is truly fascinating. I certainly understand the character writing as a form of understanding, a form of therapy, that totally works for me. Great review!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Lana! 😀 I am beaming away on reading your comment and particularly about noticing poetry in some of my lines – I’ve never been able to write poetry and am so in awe of people of who can compose them – so to think maybe I have a touch of this ability makes me smile! Memory is keystone to our very self and soul I feel and any book that deals with this subject matter well is a winner for me.

  3. Andrea Stephenson says:

    You’ve definitely recommended this to me Annika with your review. It sounds a little like the movie 50 First Dates, which I do enjoy. I’m intrigued to see how the author has written it – it must have been a challenge, I can’t imagine how I’d begin.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Andrea, I’m so glad you like the review and that the book is of interest to you. I haven’t heard of 50 First Dates – I thought I knew most of Adam Sadler films. The concept of the short term memory sounds exactly the same and now I want to see the film – seems as if this is one of his better films and thank you for the recommendation.

      When I started the book the writing was slightly confusing and also repetitive – however, the writer has done an amazing job by building on the repetition and the story is cumulatively created.The sense of place once in Spitsbergen is wonderfully intense and through occasion use of emails from her brother a different perspective of Flora and her world is shown. If you read the book, I would love to know what you think of it.

      • Andrea Stephenson says:

        I’m not usually an Adam Sandler fan, but I do like Drew Barrymore, who is also in it – it has some toilet humour in it but it’s a feel good movie. I love snowy, arctic places, so that’s definitely one of the things that attracts me to reading the book 🙂

  4. Bun Karyudo says:

    That’s a wonderful review, Annika. It’s definitely not my usual genre, but having read what you said about it, I’m genuinely interested in finding out what happens. Perhaps once my new job settles down, I’ll have time to take a look.

  5. Christy B says:

    Your reviews are always so thoughtfully written, Annika. Ohhh when you wrote that she remembered the kiss, I wanted to read the whole thing! Memory is so intriguing, isn’t it?

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Christy!😀 It is amazing how that single kiss takes hold on both Flora and the reader and carries the reader as she searches for Drake – and the reason why she does remember this. I agree, memory is so intriguing and speaking to a neurologist once he said the science about the brain is just in its infancy.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Initially I looked at the cover and thought “hmm, not sure i’d like this much but I’ll read the review”. And am I glad I did. You have really sold me on this book -so much so that I’m seriously contemplating buyingit. It made me realise that we sometimes take too much for granted but memory is such an important part of being and I can’t imagine havng to start each day with no memory of the day before.

    Congratulaions on another splendid book review Annika.

    Mike

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mike, I can see how the cover might not be to everyone’s liking but personally, I liked the fragmented element of it and the ‘be brave’ in the corner, the two words that keep Flora courageous enough to face each day and its adventures. There again, this is looking at it with hindsight. The thought of losing one’s memory is terrifying and impossible to comprehend – a real gift which I agree is taken so much for granted. Hope you get a chance to read this!😀

  7. Sharon Bonin-Pratt says:

    An excellent review, Annika. You made me want to read this book, it sounds so wonderful and unusual. My mom suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and I cannot imagine living the way she does – with no memory at all of her life. I will definitely get this book, thank you.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Sharon, I am so sorry about your mother and my heart goes out to you both. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have this horrific disease and I’m sure reading books such as Still Alice only scratches the surface to the reality of this life. It must be impossibly hard and sad for you…at least the character in this book retains her sense of her younger self and recognises closest family and friends. Obviously you will read this book from a very different perspective from so many of us. Hugs xx

  8. reocochran says:

    Oh, oh! Sorry Annika! Vision didn’t help me in this single letter “error” until I reread my comment. (“nature” = “mature”) My granddaughter, Lara, is mature and likes, as we who love books do, more intricate and realistic plots. ❤

  9. reocochran says:

    I am reading and visiting my (blogging) friends this weekend, Annika. I am glad you mentioned this book! I would like to read more, not sure when (?!)
    This book review captivated my attention. Your enchanting words you used to describe young Flora in the book made me “listen” and “pay attention!” My granddaughter is only 12, but like I was at her age, curious and interested in nature plots. This one seems like it would expand her thinking and motivate her to pay attention to more than her present “world.” I will possibly find this soon. Glad you mentioned it may not be available around here yet. (So I won’t be discouraged!)
    Have a peaceful and yet, interesting weekend!
    I saw “Lion” and loved it ever so much, Annika. My friend, Bill, and I used tissues and sobbed with joy and some heartbreaking emotions. Take care! ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Lara sounds just lovely, Robin and your closeness is self-evident from your comment.😀 How wonderful to share a love of literature and I’m sure this is one book you would both enjoy and you’d be able to discuss it afterwards – I would love to know what a 12-year old thinks of the book and reckon she’d pick up different aspects. PS. I didn’t pick up on the nature/mature error right away as the natural beauty and descriptions of the Spitsbergen are strikingly beautiful and I can picture the landscape just from the author’s writing.

      My husband and I are planning a very rare trip to the cinema and we’ve been discussing which film to see – my option was La La Land, his was Lion – well, after reading your words here he wins and I can’t wait to see this now. I’ll bring lots of tissues! You take care of yourself too! 😀❤️

      • reocochran says:

        Did you go see Lion or La La Land? I saw both and would still say Lion resonated with me, Bill cried over the little boy bravely enduring so much and his simple act of carrying the piece of cardboard (his “bed”) around as if it were his blanket like Linus.
        La La Land was beautiful and artistic but a bit sad, too. The story was good and still would see it! Next, I need to see “Moonlight!”

        • Annika Perry says:

          Robin, we intended to go to see Lion tomorrow but it isn’t on!!😟 Grrr. Nor La La Land or Moonlight! I can’t believe it and very disappointed as this would have been a lovely outing for us and all films sound good. Just lots of actions films again! Guess I’ll have to wait for DVD. Many thanks for remembering and I was going to write you afterwards. Have a lovely rest of the weekend! 😀♥️

  10. Adrienne Morris says:

    Sounds amazing, Annika.

    My sister-in-law’s personality and mental age completely changed after a brain tumor was removed. She’d always been impatient and snippy. My brother and her were considering divorce before they found the tumor. But as my brother became her care-giver their love grew–though it played out in odd ways. When she died a few years later it was bittersweet–she’d suffered so much, but she’d finally found love.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Adrienne, thank you so much for sharing your brother and his wife’s story. How incredible that her personality changed so much afterwards and for this was to be for the better. Bittersweet is definitely the word. I suppose the comfort is that her final years with your brother were positive and as happy as could be – you never know what the price will be to find love.

  11. restlessjo says:

    I shall undoubtedly look out for this one. You review books really well, Annika, revealing just enough of the plot but also a wonderful feel of the story itself. 🙂 🙂 Happy Friday and a good weekend!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jo, this came out in January so it will probably be in the shops more in a few months time – I’ve noticed that with books I’ve reviewed and at the station today spotted a couple I reviewed last year piled on the table of books for sale in Smiths. Oh, always tricky of how much to reveal and glad you feel the balance is right here. Wishing you a great weekend too. 😀😃

  12. Jacqui Murray says:

    This sounds wonderful. I love reading books about problems we humans have with our brains. “The Man Who Thought His Wife Was a Hat” comes to mind. I can’t imagine how anyone could survive with no memories of the present. I’m going over to NetGalley to see if I can snag a copy.

    Thanks, Annika.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jacqui, I do hope you managed to get a copy of this and can’t wait to read your review if you’re doing one. Oh, Oliver Sacks is the master of amnesia writing and I’ve read ‘The Man Who Thought His Wife Was a Hat’ many times – this is obviously fictional and from a personal angle but still gripping and gives a real flavour of this dreadful affliction.

  13. Carol Balawyder says:

    I love your reviews. You put so much care into them. They are worthy of New York Times book reviews. Always so well written with depth and, Annika, you sure have a unique voice that captures the essence of a book. 📚

    • Annika Perry says:

      Carol, wow! I feel honoured and humbled by your amazing comment which means so very much to me. Once again, wow!😀 When I started reviewing the books I felt very unsure of myself and didn’t know what to write – I must admit I was initially drawn by the opportunity to read books for free!😀 Researching other’s reviews I decided the ones I liked best were the less dry ones and those that had a strong voice of the reviewer…so happy you feel mine comes through! Thank you again for your wonderful comment.

  14. JC says:

    I was struck by your line, “the past, present, and future become the now”, as I’ve not thought of memory loss in that way. We hear the mantra, ‘live in the moment’, and this truly is but is a sad way to go about it. Also in storytelling, it requires memory and that would be a great loss too. It sounds like a great read, especially with your review.

    • Annika Perry says:

      It’s interesting you mention story-telling, JC because at intervals throughout the book, Flora would read a book and I wondered if it was always the same book and would she have to start it from the beginning each time and never come to its end? Rather sad. Yes, there is living in the moment but luckily the majority of us can put that moment in the context of past and future! So glad you liked the review!😀

      • Marje @ Kyrosmagica says:

        Can’t wait!! Coffee with my youngest daughter and a touch of shopping – what a special combination.. just hope she is patient with me in Waterstones, as she is more keen on clothes shopping! My eldest would spend hours in Waterstones!

  15. dgkaye says:

    Ooh, I do love your wonderful review. You sure know how to attract readers with your reviews Annika, especially when the book offers such mystique. I love that you called out the genre. From your description I certainly didn’t feel it was a YA book. I’m bookmarking this one! Thanks a bunch. 🙂 ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Debby! 😀 As for the genre pigeonholing comment, this is a personal bugbear with me since I began reading the books my son was reading and thoroughly enjoying the YA adult books – so many wonderful books would have slipped past me otherwise!

      • dgkaye says:

        Good point Annika. I know if I’m told a book is in a genre I don’t fancy reading, I too would take a pass. This is why it’s important to classify a book in the proper genre. 🙂

  16. delphini510 says:

    Yet again an enthralling and brilliant revue Annika. You say:
    “This is a book that lived with me through the days even when not reading and to which I couldn’t wait to return to every evening. Its magical enchanted feel fluttered like lilting music over me, the absolute unknown a welcome break from formulaic writing.”

    This poetic declaration alone would be enough to make me buy the book.
    The subject of amnesia has long fascinated me so I follow eagerly what you have to tell,
    all so vibrant. It makes sense that the kiss would wake memories as it engages the senses and not only the brain’s capacity.

    Thank you for yet another treat to come
    Mirja

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mirja, I agree that the intensity of one’s first romantic kiss could register on Flora’s brain even when everything else fails and it is this hope of recovery that drives her towards Drake (as well as love, of course!)

      The amnesia in this book is refreshingly told only from the girl point of view, which makes it immediate and since it is a teenager, there is the added dimension of her finding herself through her new memories each day as well as being a teenager with her mind trapped in childhood memories.

      A unique take on amnesia with an interesting story. Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did and please let me know what you think of it. Many thanks for your lovely comment. 😀❤️

      • Anonymous says:

        On the strength of your review I have now just bought the book
        and look forward to the read. Will with pleasure let you know what I
        feel and think about it. 🙂

          • Anonymous says:

            I did Annika, enjoy that is. More than that, I was enthralled and kept taking every chance
            to read more. Felt quite bereft when the end came. Could you ask Emily Barr to write a sequel?:) There is plenty of scope. …..
            Your review does not exaggerate, Flora as the narrator is exquisite and amazing, the main charachters are all so strong an you feel as you lived with Flora and her friends.

            I love the way the Arctic comes to life. It’s frozen world frightening but so beautiful. Flora’s childish and at times spiritual experience of it, how she grows in herself. The wonderful strong friends she makes there. Their love and patient support.
            And don’t you get to love her brother?
            I will stop here or I give something away.:)
            Mirja

            • Annika Perry says:

              Wow, Mirja!! I will humbly step aside and let you take over!! 😃 Your review here is just wonderful, touching and give such a flavour of the book – picking up on some details I hadn’t gone into. Flora’s brother is a gem, her old and new-found friends supportive beyond belief. Within a few words, you pick up on the magic of Flora’s character – childish and spiritual in one!

              Thank you every so much for coming back with your opinion of this book – I really appreciate it and so enjoy the ‘conversation’ about this book.😃❤️

    • Annika Perry says:

      It was very different and although I’ve read about memory loss in other novels these have often been in third person or mixed POVs format and always about adults. It is so tragic to understand that this can happen to younger people however the book was not depressing or soul searching in any way.

  17. D. Wallace Peach says:

    That sounds so unusual, Annika. What a writing task, and a reading treasure. From your review, I also wonder why the author chose to call the book a YA novel. I normally don’t like YA books (particularly the ones about angst-filled girls swooning over cute boys – ugh). This book definitely sounds worth picking up. 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Annika Perry says:

      I’ve read so many YA adults recently which are sparkling with originality and creativity and always think it’s a pity that they might miss out on readership and no, this is definitely not gushy or contrived! I am so impressed how the writer manages to repeat facts without it becoming boring, rather creating a layered cumulative read. Many thanks for your thoughtful comment, Diana.

  18. Sunshine Jansen says:

    I’ve been looking for a new title that’s more literary fiction than my usual SciFi/Fanstasy — so thanks! And yes, the number of books that get pegged YA just because there’s a young protagonist kind of drives me crazy!

    • Annika Perry says:

      This is on the opposite scale from SciFi and a great read and well written with a wonderful and touching story. I would love to hear what you think of the book if you read it. It is indeed so shortsighted to effectively limit this book to one genre – maybe if enough people speak out the publishing houses will reconsider how they categorise books!

  19. Jill Weatherholt says:

    I can see why this stayed with you, Annika. Wow! This is definitely a must read for me as I’ve always been fascinated reading stories about people who’ve experienced amnesia. Thanks for the great review! xo

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jill, I’m with you here and I’ve have read many books about people with amnesia – a fascinating subject and deals so much with the core of oneself. None of the books I’ve read however have featured a young person with amnesia nor been written solely from that POV. This is one I’m sure you’d like!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Bernadette, I do find the thought of the mind and memory deeply fascinating and often think how horrid the loss of it is, the loss of oneself. In this book, in spite of her terrible affliction, Flora still manages to strongly retain her sense of self and the book ultimately becomes an oddly uplifting read.

  20. Julie Holmes, author says:

    This sounds like a very interesting read, Annika. I think I’ll have to add it to my TBR list 🙂

    Hope the weather is holding out for you there. We’ve got one more “warm” day (above the seasonal norm…and about 15 degrees above freezing) before the dreaded snowstorm is predicted to hit. Here’s hoping they’re wrong about the foot of snow 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      It was a great read and very different from the ‘heavier’ Tracy Chevalier book I reviewed last!

      Fingers crossed the weather doesn’t bring all that snow your way, here Storm Doris is battering us! We could all do with spring settling in and to cease this fickle warm/cold spell!

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