Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
Flora Banks has anterograde amnesia and she’s unable to remember anything past the age of 11. That is, until she kisses Drake – her best friend Paige’s recent ex-boyfriend – on the beach during a party. Flora can remember kissing Drake, and she wonders if he might be the cure to her amnesia… But the party was his leaving party. He’s gone all the way to Svalbard, land of the midnight sun, and Flora’s been left behind wondering ‘What if?’.
That is, until her parents have to go to France to be with her sick brother Jacob. They think that Paige is going to stay with Flora while they’re away, but Paige isn’t talking to her because of Drake. Flora spends all of her days emailing Drake, completely forgetting to eat or wash herself, until Drake tries to break things off and she decides to go to Svalbard to win him back.
The start of The One Memory of Flora Banks made me extremely uncomfortable, and I thought I was going to end up hating the story. Drake kissing Flora was sleazy and inappropriate: he knows she can’t remember anything and that she’s vulnerable, so him making a move – especially on a night when she’s been drinking – set alarm bells ringing in my head. I wanted Flora to be happy and kissing Drake seemed to do that, but I felt protective of her instantly because of how disorienting and confusing Emily Barr makes her narrative.
For obvious reasons, this story is repetitive. Despite the fact that it’s quite short, it takes a long time to read it – you need to be patient, so if you’re looking for a quick read you should come back to this at a later date. It works beautifully, Flora’s constant repetition of basic facts about her life showing the extent of her memory loss and the fear and perplexity that she experiences on a daily basis. However, it really slows down the pace, and I found it frustrating that a book with so little plot progression could move so sluggishly.
It pays off in the end, though. Because of Flora’s memory loss she’s an unreliable narrator, and the last third of the novel is filled with twists and turns had me gasping. No, this book isn’t perfect, but it’s very clever and I can see why so many people have been hyping it up for the past twelve months. I wish I’d read it earlier, and I’m already planning on reading Emily Barr’s second novel, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, soon.
If you’re interested in learning more about The One Memory of Flora Banks, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!
If you could only keep one memory from your life, which one would you choose and why?