The Memory Of Us by Camille Di Maio – 400 pages
Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.
While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love. But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?
My Review: 4 stars
The Memory Of Us had been on my excessive TBR list since its release in 2016. Its rave reviews kept it on my list, but as avid readers know, there’s just too little time to read everything we want. While on Facebook one afternoon, I recognized that the author’s daughter lives in the same building as my daughter does. We chatted about the odds of this happening with a zillion places to live in NYC. At that point, I made it point to read this at once.
As many of you know, I’m a sucker for historical fiction, and this book surprised me as a historical romance. Actually, it seemed more of a romance novel, with a side of history, rather than a historical fiction novel, with a side of romance. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this book.
The author’s attention to detail transported me directly to the early 20th century where I felt completely connected to the events occurring. The research Di Maio did to capture the heart of London was evident in the rich descriptions. Writing in dual time periods was effective in keeping the reader on their toes to see how everything would come together.
I find In many novels, historical fiction or not, the characters seem to fall in love, without enough interaction or conversation to deem it likely. Di Maio expertly crafts a relaxed, realistic relationship between the two that makes it easy to grasp how and why their relationship develops. You will most definitely be rooting for them from start to finish.
There were a couple times when Julianne’s actions in the second half of the book seemed off-character for her, and I had trouble believing them. It was almost as if her values had suddenly changed, although there was no pretext to why. That being said, this book does focus on the decisions we make to protect ourselves, and the ones we love, and although I didn’t always love Julianne, I did appreciate her journey.
Overall, I thought this was a wonderful debut novel. This book made me laugh and then tear up, feel hopeful and then despaired, disappointed and then fulfilled. An abundance of symbolism was present as well as the ongoing differences of the Catholics versus the Protestants. Slightly reminiscent of The Thorn Birds and a bit of The Bronze Horseman was a plus for me, as both of those books I adore. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who can’t decide if they went a romance or historical fiction – because this book hits the mark on both.
Quotes I liked:
You are my vocation. I was made to love you, protect you, through the good and bad, and through every vow that will be asked of me.”
-“My own monsters were self-concocted fits of overthinking.”
-“I thought of our family, sometimes, as a tapestry: a perfect blending and weaving of colored threads that produced an enviable picture on our surface, while underneath we were a tangled maze of knots and stitches, colliding and separating in our own directions, united only in the mandate to keep the outward appearances lovely.”