Hospitalized after a liaison with another man's wife ends in violence, Paul Cole has just one goal: to rebuild his shattered life. But with his memory damaged, the police hounding him, and no way to even get home, Paul's facing steep odds - and a bleak fate if he fails.
This final, never-before-published novel by three-time Edgar Award winner Donald E. Westlake is a noir masterpiece, a dark and painful portrait of a man's struggle against merciless forces that threaten to strip him of his very identity.
©2010 Donald E. Westlake (P)2010 BBC Audio
"[T]his is no typical Westlake novel; in fact, in many ways it’s one of his most interesting books, simply because it’s so very different. For his fans, absolutely a must-read." (Booklist)
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"The accident of existence"
Memory is a departure from the usual story-based novel, not only for Westlake, but for most writers. The central character, Paul Cole, has the kind of internalized perceptions found in the protagonists of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment or Camus' The Stranger. Their world is defined by a logic which conflicts with the expectations of others. Cole is driven, not by circumstances, but by their refusal to fit together in a way that will allow him to re-establish his forgotten way of life.
This is a very interesting and ambitious mode of story-telling, because Westlake lets the reader see ahead of his hapless protagonist and sense the outcome of Paul Cole's groping attempts at regaining his memory. The theme of the book stands as a kind of metaphor for the accidental nature of life. Events appear to be cyclical, but they are spiral, the circles never quite overlap.
"A very poor and disappointing book"
I wouldn't recommend this to anyone. I persisted to the end thinking that Paul Kohl would finally have some reasonable conclusion in this story. At 20 minutes left I realized that I was in trouble. A very dark and depressing story with really nothing good to be said about it. The absolutely worst book I've ever purchased from Audible.
"Odd and wonderfull"
In the first half of the book, there's a chapter when the character is defenseless and walking in the dark in a town he doesn't recognize. He's lost in the dark and the setting resembles in more than one way what's going on in his mind. The character, and in this case the wonderful narrator, is just describing what happens, but the vulnerability and frailty of his situation are never more evident and troubling.
Westlake is able to do one of the most difficult feats for a writer, to show without telling, specially when the story is narrated in first person and the narrator suffers a conscience disorder. He achieves this by patiently describing every action and half thought. By making the right pauses and conveying the right emotions.
This is not a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It is, though, a book that will slowly permeate your conscious self like a virus, achieving for a moment not only to make you ask questions about identity and everyday life that usually one never thinks about. Its an odd thing. The plot won't keep you on the edge of your seat, but you'll be on the edge of your nerves thinking about the character's situation, asking yourself what's going to happen to him. Its a desperate situation with apparently no exit. A psychological thriller, not an action one.
He's a great reader that achieves to totally embody the character. Since the narration is in first person, after a while you're not able to set the narrator and the character apart. That mean's Westlake was able to create a singular voice that works both in sound and in sight, but also that the narrator is more an actor than a reader. And that's the whole difference.
Yes. That chapter in the middle of the night was deeply moving.
This is a must listen if there ever was one.
"I still can't believe it happened"
I love Westlake and while this is a completely different style in all ways and while it was depressing in its reality, it could have been among his best, EXCEPT, the ending. The ending was so weird and abrupt i still can't believe it was the end. If the Moderator had not come back on telling us that "This has been ..." i would be sure the file was corrupted and it was not the end. The reader was great though!
"Review of Memory"
Ouch. Couldn't finish it. I love Donald Westlake in all his guises, from the tough to the goofy. This is Donald Westlake as Camus. It's horrifying from beginning to end. Really creepy with no let up and little nuance. (Went to the end to check this out.) I'm not saying it's bad, just that it's far, far, from the mature Donald Westlake. To read a book that is this much of a downer, the sentences have to glow. Nothing glows here. Stephen Thorne does a great job as reader, but his load is too heavy. Regret buying it.
"Quietly involving story."
The way the narrator put over the quiet confusion inside the main character's head as he struggled with the consequences of his amnesia and how it made him feel so isolated and lost.
The main character Paul. I really felt for him and his predicament.
It was a first person narrative so it worked really well as an audiobook. His performance was slightly understated, which was perfect for this story and the character.
Who are you if you don't remember yourself?
A couple of reviews of this book say it's a bit depressing or dull - which almost put me off. But I didn't find it so at all. I was interested and involved in the character of Paul from the very beginning. Parts of it are simple and mundane, I suppose - just Paul going to work and the employment exchange, struggling to find lodgings, trying to deal with everyday things that are a real battle for him because he can hardly remember anything from one hour to the next. He meets people who are apparently his friends but who are total strangers to him now, some of whom he doesn't even like very much. I felt desperate for poor Paul to sort out his life.
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