This book is a gripping story. It is a book that exposes humanity and shows not just the failings of humanity, but also the goodness that is inherent in it when one chooses to look a little deeper than the surface. ‘The Book of Memory’ written by Petina Gappah is narrated by an albino female character who is named ‘Memory’. She is arrested and sentenced to death for murdering Lloyd, who is a white man and also her benefactor.
Though the novel starts with her responding to her lawyer’s advice during which she puts her thoughts to paper and records all that happened to her, it is an avenue for her to heal, look at her past and reconcile with it while looking towards the future. All of these stories are written by her while in prison.
The book explores many themes like betrayal, friendship, courage, family, racism, colourisation, political upheaval. It is set in Zimbabwe at a time power shifts from one political party to the other.
Memory bonds with the women in prison and with Loveness who treats her specially. We discover that it is because, in Memory, Loveness sees her daughter.
The novel exposes the terrible state of prison systems and the judicial system in Zimbabwe. The women are kept like animals in the most unsanitary conditions.
The theme of religion and superstition is also relayed in the book, but importantly, is the matter of skin colour and how it is viewed.
Through Memory’s trials, she comes to accept that things happen for a reason and the acceptance of that fact makes her come to peace with herself which is her redemption even though by societal standards she is guilty. The book is a great read and highly recommended.
Onwah is a book enthusiast and blogger