My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can’t believe it’s the first day of 2017 and I’m already giving a book 5 stars but The One Memory of Flora Banks definitely deserves it.
I love books that are unique, different and a little bit weird and this story is all of those things and more. The writing is incredible and draws you in to the life and mind of Flora Banks from the very first page and I could quite happily have stayed there.
Seventeen year old Flora Banks has suffered from anterograde amnesia since she was 11, so while she can remember things up until the age of 10 any new memories are lost within a couple of hours. This means that while she is 17, she tends to forget this and speaks, thinks (and occasionally acts) like a child. Then one day, she kisses a boy on a beach and she remembers it. Not just for a few hours but the following day and the day after that. Believing she’s in love and that this boy could cure her she becomes obsessed with him and sets out to track him down. Unfortunately, he’s a student in the Arctic so Flora sets out on an adventure.
On her own, Flora has to rely on the notes and instructions she writes herself and the people she meets in this strange new world to find the one person who may hold the key to retaining her memories. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.
The whole story is told from Flora’s point of view and this makes for a very unique reading experience. She constantly forgets things and has to keep reminding herself of what’s going on or where she is, there are moments of panic, complete confusion as her thoughts starts jumping around in time, obsession and quite a few moments of complete joy. It’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and Flora is not the most reliable of narrators making you constantly question what’s real and what’s not and whether she truly understands what’s happening.
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of amnesia and what it’s like to not remember anything. Would it be liberating to not remember (and beat yourself up over) the things you’ve done or would it be terrifying to not know who you or anyone else is? In this book it’s both. Flora is such an engaging character you can’t help but like her and cheer her on. She’s innocent and naive in a lot of ways which had me permanently worried someone would take advantage but there is something very infectious about the way she just does things because she wants to. Would you follow a boy you kissed once to the Arctic? She takes things at face value and just trusts which is so endearing and in a lot of ways I found it inspirational just how brave she was.
As the story is from Flora’s perspective you don’t get a lot of depth or insight into the other characters, they appear, say or do something and are then forgotten but they do still make an impact. One character in particular, who never actually appears in the book in person plays a huge part in the story and for me left the biggest impression. I’d absolutely love to hear his story.
The writing throughout is incredible and emotive. I found myself laughing and smiling and crying at points and I just couldn’t stop reading. Even picking it up now and flipping to a random page I have a huge big smile on my face.
I know there has been some criticism that this is a book about someone on a quest to be “normal” rather than accepting and living with her condition but I don’t think this is what the story is about. For me it was about someone who, despite a frightening condition, wants to go out and live her life. To have adventures, make friends and be out there doing what she wants without fear. Also, is it really a bad thing that she wants to find a way to hang on to her memories?
I will admit it’s not perfect, I feel that there are some issues which are slightly brushed over, but as it’s such an emotional, addictive and unique read I just had to give it the full five stars. I’m so happy to have had this book to bring in the new year. I think it’s a book that will stay with me for a while.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.