The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Sometimes when reading a book it can be really hard to separate your own subjective view from the topic that the book is dealing with, especially when this topic is related to some kind of illness. This is a really challenging book to review and was a very interesting – if not sometimes infuriating – read. The overall premise of the book is not one I’ve seen before and it was tackled really well, which is part of the reason why I found this book difficult to get through.

Flora is a 17-year-old girl who has suffered from anterograde amnesia ever since she was 10. This means that she has almost no short-term memory and forgets things within a couple of hours. She uses post-it notes to remember important things, relying almost entirely on her parents and best friend Paige to help her through her day-to-day life. This all changes when Flora is kissed by her best friend’s boyfriend the night before he moves away, a memory which sticks in her mind without the help of her tools.

Flora comes across as very innocent and naïve, with her mental age essentially being stuck at the point at which she developed amnesia. This is where some of the most interesting parts of the book are found – watching Flora try to reconcile her mental age with her physical. There are multiple points within the book where Flora catches a glimpse of herself and does not understand why she looks so much older than she thinks she should, which is kind of heartbreaking and just made me want to give her a massive hug. Flora as a character and her development is such a crucial focus of this book and is by far and away my favourite thing. Flora is the very definition of an unreliable narrator and there are some very good plot twists towards the end of the book which explain more about how she developed amnesia and why her parents are so reluctant to allow her to be her own person.

The nature of Flora’s condition means that we as the readers will be told things multiple times as she learns, forgets and relearns them, which is where one of my main problems with the book lay. It can be very frustrating as a reader to read almost the exact same sentences over and over again – but the author is doing so in order to give us as accurate an interpretation as possible of what it is like to live with amnesia. Once I had got that into my head I started to enjoy the book more for what it is and really come to love Flora and her personality.

My other main problem (which was a genuine issue and not just me trying to get my head around the premise) was that the one event that Flora could remember without having to read her notes was being kissed by a boy. This is the thing which really kick-starts her character development and makes her think that she is starting to get better, but I really wish that something less obvious and eye-roll-inducing had been used. This whole part of the plot is pretty much hitting you in the face with a hammer with the words ‘love can cure anything’ written on the side, which is such a problematic and unrealistic message to convey when a serious illness is involved. This also sets in motion the most unbelievable journey of self-discovery that I have ever read, in which Flora chases said boy to a different country purely based on her one memory of their kiss (oh how this part nearly made me DNF).

It absolutely cannot be denied that Emily Barr has managed to present a deeply successful portrayal of amnesia within this book. I just wish that the romance aspect hadn’t been such a focus and that Flora was allowed to find her path in a more natural way.

I received a free e-book copy of this book from NetGalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

 

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