Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review: The Memory of Lost Senses by Judith Kinghorn


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…

NAL Trade | January 7, 2014 | 448 pages | ISBN: 0451466128

My Review

Judith Kinghorn’s latest release, The Memory of Lost Senses, is an evocative tale about the power of memory. The year is 1911, and mysterious Countess Cora has returned to England from the continent in order to spend time with her grandson, Jack. With Cora is her longtime friend Sylvia, a novelist who plans to write Cora’s memoirs. Intrigued by what she’s heard of the Countess’ life, villager Cecily Chadwick, an aspiring novelist herself and friend of Jack’s, gets to know Cora, becoming increasingly fascinated by her remarkable tales. As Cecily’s relationship with Jack deepens, so does her interest in Cora’s life. But the Countess’ past is not necessarily as it seems, and Cecily comes to realize that there is much more to the Countess’ life than Cora is willing to impart.

One of the things I like best about this novel is the way in which the story is told. Rather than unfolding in chronological order, the narrative moves back and forth in time and is told from multiple viewpoints. The truth of Cora’s life is revealed only in bits and pieces, and the reader is never sure which of her memories are facts and which are fiction, thus ensuring the reader remains fully engaged in the story until the very end. Kinghorn’s prose is lovely, lavishly describing both the characters and the setting, which leaves the reader with a strong sense of time and place. The characters themselves are engaging and well-developed. Fans of the Kinghorn’s remarkable debut novel, The Last Summer, will surely be pleased with this second effort. For readers yet to discover Kinghorn’s novels, this book is sure to create a whole new legion of fans.

Note:  This review first appeared in the Historical Novel Review (Issue 67, February 2014)
Source:  I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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