Friday, February 26, 2016


I read Memory by Philippe Grimbert years ago.  It was written in 2004 and translated to English in
2007.  I came across it the other day as I was clearing out a few books to make room for others.  I didn't remember anything about it from reading it before, but it sounded interesting and I set it aside to read again.  I picked it up the other night after I finished the book I had been reading and read the entire book in a few hours.  It's a small book and I don't know why I didn't remember it, because this time reading it I was incredibly moved by it.

The story begins thus:

"Although an only child, for many years I had a brother.  Holiday friends and casual acquantances had no option but to take my word for it.  I had a brother.  Stronger and better looking.  An older brother, invisible and glorious."

The narrator tells the story as he knows it, of his parents meeting, courtship and marriage, occurring during the World War II. The family lived in France and the narrator was their only child.  He had an imaginary older brother. And so his life went on.  As he got older, one day in school, the children watched a documentary about the war.  One of his classmates began making fun of the film and the young boy became upset and slapped his friend, which resulted in a brawl.

He did not tell his parents the truth about his injuries from the fight, but the next day he confided in the family's old friend, Louise.  While he was telling her about the incident, he began sobbing. Louise also began to cry.

"The day after my fifteenth birthday, I finally learned what I had always known."

Louise told him his parent's story, and as the author wrote:

"Three dead people loomed out of the shadows.  I heard their names for the first time: Robert, Hannah, and Simon."

This is an absolutely beautiful book. And a heartbreaking story.  It was written twenty years after the author's parents had died by suicide.  It is the author's fictionalized true story of his parent's hidden lives.  It is quite simply, a very powerful book

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