HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO TO TRUST WHEN YOU CAN’T EVEN TRUST YOURSELF?
I look at my hands. One of them says FLORA BE BRAVE.
Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.
Then she kisses someone she shouldn’t, and the next day she remembers it. It’s the first time she’s remembered anything since she was ten.
But the boy is gone. She thinks he’s moved to the Arctic.
It’s been more than 48 hours since I finished reading this book and I just can’t stop thinking about Flora Banks. In quiet moments I find myself drifting off, wondering what Flora is up to now – whereabouts in the world is she? What quest is she on and who is with her? I even dreamt in Flora the other night – I was still me but kept having to write down what I was doing in a notebook (in short but beautifully formed sentences a la Flora) because I knew I was going to forget all about it very soon.
That is the effect this book has had on me. Flora has really got under my skin – she’s bright, bold and brilliant; as well as being, thanks to her anterograde amnesia, possibly the most unreliable narrator I’ve ever come across.
The first person narration means the reader is entirely immersed in Flora’s head – when she forgets things, we are retold them just as she has to retell herself (through her trusty notebook and the writing on her arms); when Flora is confused we are confused; and when Flora really doesn’t know what’s real and what isn’t we haven’t got a clue either. It’s disconcerting and uncomfortable in places but that is what makes this book so effective.
I was with Flora all the way – I felt her hurt and confusion and was swept away by her adventurous spirit and general adorableness. And, despite me calling her unreliable just a paragraph or so ago (which in many ways she is), Flora is actually one of the most honest characters in the book – provided you overlook the small matter of the text messages telling her parents (who have dashed off to be at her gravely ill brother’s bedside) that she’s fine with her friend in Penzance, when she’s actually on her own in Svalbard! But we’ve all been there right? Although Svalbard somewhat beats Yates’s Wine Lodge circa 2002 as a place worth lying to your parents about your whereabouts for…
Anyway…the fact is that this book is brilliant. It’s one of those books that is so good it makes me sad that I won’t ever be able to read it for the first time again. And I’m going to stop talking about it now so that you can go and reserve it from your local library / bookshop and get swept away by Flora too!
The One Memory of Flora Banks is published by Penguin and is out now.