Review: The Memory of Lost Senses

Title: The Memory of Lost Senses 18079580

Author: Judith Kinghorn

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: Within weeks letters would be burned, pages torn. Promises would be broken and hearts betrayed.  But for now the countryside languished, golden and fading…

Cecily Chadwick is idling away the long, hot summer of 1911 when a mysterious countess moves into the large, deserted country house on the edge of her sleepy English village. Rumors abound about the countess’s many husbands and lovers, her opulent wealth, and the tragedies that have marked her life. As Cecily gets to know her, she becomes fascinated by the remarkable woman—riveted by her tales of life on the Continent, and of the famous people she once knew. But the countess is clearly troubled by her memories, and by ruinous secrets that haunt her…

Staying with the countess is a successful novelist and dear friend who has been summoned to write the countess’s memoirs. For aspiring writer Cecily, the novelist’s presence only adds to the intrigue of the house. But it is the countess’s grandson, Jack, who draws Cecily further into the tangled web of the countess’s past, and sweeps her into an uncertain future…

Review: After a grand life lived on the Continent, an aged countess returns to the land of her birth and settles down on an estate in a small country village. She brings with her a life remarked upon as full of scandal with her numerous marriages and the life she lived abroad, and now that she is with her grandson Cora decides it is time to set the record straight about her past with a written memoir. But how can Cora’s oldest friend, Sylvia, who has been by her side through much of her life, write this memoir when the subject refuses to look back into the past and tell it how it truly was? In the face of so much change and familiarity, Cora has become lost in her memories and what to reveal to not only the world, but to the most important person she has left: her grandson, Jack.

At its center The Memory of Lost Senses is a book about how survival can be achieved through reinvention. Due to hardships in her childhood, Cora was forced to flee from England with her aunt to reside in Italy under different names. With the new names came the need to craft new identities, and because she goes on to face loss numerous times in her life Cora becomes better and better at separating the truth of her past from the fictional and often times delusional lies she must tell. If there is one thing I can advise for fellow readers of this novel it is to never completely trust what you have heard from any of the main characters. Cora’s memories have been manipulated via herself or via Sylvia, while Sylvia is so unaware of the truth she is not to be trusted much either. Age of the characters could have something to do with this yet I will take it to be a commentary on how lies can not sustain a person to reach the happy ending they so desperately wish to have been.

This book reads like a memory, slow and languid in its pace. It is not possible to rush through this book; nor would I understand why anyone would do so when encountered with such beautiful language. Judith Kinghorn’s prose is remarkable with the power to fuse delusion and truth. I leave this book in the same mind space as many of the characters: I am left to wonder who is the subject and who is the author… Enigmatic all the way through, I somehow do not feel frustrated with the unresolved since I feel it lends itself well to the prevalent themes. I don’t think this book is for everybody, but I enjoyed it.

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