Author: Lisa Jewell
First Published: 2009
From the Cover:
When she was nine years old, Melody Browne's house burned down, taking every toy, every old Christmas card with it. But is also took all her memories – Melody Browne can remember nothing before her ninth birthday. Now in her early thirties, Melody lives in a small flat in the middle of London with her seventeen-year-old son. She’s made a good life for them both and she likes it that way. Until one night something extraordinary happens. Whilst attending a hypnotist show with her first date in years, she faints – and when she comes round she starts to remember. At first her memories mean nothing to her but then she begins to piece together the story of her her childhood. But with every mystery she solves another one materialises. And Melody begins to wonder if she’ll ever know the truth about her past…
My first reaction to this book was I’m afraid, a little lukewarm. I mean, the blurb on the back sounded a bit cliché (although I insisted on reading it because I’d heard so many great things about Jewell), the sentences were long and windy, and the writing style was a little confusing. For the first 70 pages of the book, I found myself trying to decipher some of the lines and figuring out whether I was reading a flashback derived from Melody’s current state of mind or whether I was just reading about her past in narrative form.
Despite my scepticism, I’m not one to put down a book so soon, and I’m glad I soldiered on with this one because it turned out to be a pretty groovy read after all. Once I got the hang of the flits in between the past and present, the storyline proved to be quite captivating. Melody is a character that one could immediately connect with and the revelation over the lost pieces of her life is heart-rending.
There were a few scenes that took place during Melody’s forgotten childhood that are very true and relevant to the real world today, and these issues were tackled beautifully by Jewell.
In one of the scenes where Melody was only 5, her stepmom Jacqui tries to explain to her about her parents’ divorce...“You see, children are the most precious thing in all the world, more precious and important than anything, and even though your mommy and daddy aren’t friends anymore, they’ll always be glad they used to be, because it meant that they made you”… In today’s world and age, divorce is such a common thing and I find myself constantly wondering about the effects of it on young children. I think Jewell did a wonderful job of explaining it in a manner that was both acceptable and easy on the mind of a 5 year old.
In another scene, little Melody is having ice-cream in Broadstairs with her mom’s landlord. She’s feeling sad and forlorn because she misses her baby stepsister (who lives all the way in London with her stepmom). She starts to cry because she’s worried that her baby stepsister will forget all about her. In an attempt to cheer her up, her mom’s landlord says…”Babies are very clever. She’ll remember your smell, and then, when she gets older, she’ll remember your face and, you know, she’ll save all her best smiles for you, because when she sees you it’ll be like a special treat”…. This was sort of a tear-jerking moment for me. Coming from a broken family, Melody formed a bond so strong with her step-sister, it was very hard not to get emotional at her reaction when she learns about their inevitable separation.
Overall, I think this is a wonderful read that people can relate to. Jewell has managed to highlight the severity of family issues on a child and at the same time, come up with a heart-warming story that does not disappoint.