The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa *Book Review*

memory police

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder

Goodreads rating: 3.87

My rating: 4/5

A young, unnamed novelist lives on an unnamed island where, one by one, things are disappearing. It’s not too bad at first when things like birds and harmonicas are stripped from everyone’s memory. But as time goes on, more important things begin to go missing, and the rate at which they go missing increases. 

A few special individuals on the island have memories that remain intact though. Enter: The Memory Police, an Orwellian organization that makes sure the forgotten items stay forgotten. They show up out of nowhere and take people away in their military trucks, never to be seen again. 

When our protagonist’s editor is flagged by the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him away in a secret room in her house. 

IG: @foxingfae | Do not use my images without permission

The Memory Police is a slow moving tale about the importance of remembering even the most mundane things, not because of what they are but because of what they mean. 

Ogawa’s writing calls to mind the surreal stories of Haruki Murakami. The characters and places are mostly nameless but I still felt very close to them while reading. The last half of the story reminds me a lot of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go in terms of its tone and themes of autonomy versus helplessness. 

The dystopian elements are rather subtle, unlike similar works Memory Police is being compared to (i.e. Fahrenheit 451 or 1984). Even so, I really enjoyed the chilly melancholy Ogawa’s writing invokes and I think this is a story that will stick with me for quite a while.

Instagram || Tumblr || Goodreads || Pinterest || TikTok

Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages by Jack Hartnell *Book Review*

medieval bodies

Medieval Bodies: Life and Death in the Middle Ages by Jack Hartnell

Goodreads rating: 4.04

My rating: 4/5

Hartnell treats us to a fascinating and surprisingly in-depth look at life in the Middle Ages from the perspective of the human body. The book is arranged in sections from head to toe, including everything in between. The writing is eloquent but not the point of becoming overly flowery or too dense to get through. 

It was fascinating to learn about how Medieval people understood the different aspects and functions of the body. Also tied in are relevant points of context from the time. For example, in the section on the heart we learn about how the heart was studied medically, but also about how the iconic heart shape “<3” was popularized. 

Hartnell explains that in a lot of ways, the Middle Ages were more progressive than we give them credit for. At the same time though, he doesn’t shy away from pointing out the blatant racism, homophobia, and misogyny that people regularly experienced. I really appreciated this well rounded view.

IG: @foxingfae | Do not use my images without permission

Spread throughout the pages are beautiful full-color photographs and illustrations that help add more meaning to the specific examples being discussed. 

I often struggle to read nonfiction because I lose interest so easily but Medieval Bodies was fascinating all the way through!

IG: @foxingfae | Do not use my images without permission

Instagram || Tumblr || Goodreads || Pinterest || TikTok

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman *Book Review*

tess of the road

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Goodreads rating: 3.92

My rating: 4/5 stars

Tess Dombegh is far too big for the box the world has tried to squeeze her into. She is expected to be a proper lady and fit in at court and, at the very least, not embarrass her twin sister at her wedding. Unfortunately Tess is a young girl with a lot of hurt in her heart. She is weighed down by the decisions she has made and the consequences she’s been forced to face as a result. She’s rude, crass, angry, and selfish. At first, anyway.

Tess of the Road is a very grown-up young adult fantasy that is character driven more than anything else. Over the course of 500+ pages, we follow Tess as she unravels the events that led to her family all but disowning her and trying to send her off to a convent. Along the way she sorts out her personal responsibility and begins to heal by digging out a niche for herself in this life that she never really fit into before. 

The medieval fantasy land of Goredd is filled to the brim with unique lore and world-building. Humans live alongside dragons who are a bit high and mighty at times. The World Serpents who created the earth might be sleeping below somewhere, just out of reach. 

Yet as fantastical as this world is, Rachel Hartman gives Tess a voice that is so true to life and relatable that we can all find ourselves right at home on the road with her.

In particular, I loved the way this story illustrated the personal struggles Tess has with her family. Her mother can be cold and cruel and she makes no attempts to understand her unruly daughter. Tess’ twin sister Jeanne is sweet and kind, but also self serving in her own right. Tess’ half sister Seraphina is quite literally a Saint and so can do no wrong in the eyes of society. All of this serves to isolate and frustrate Tess (understandably, so). It makes it very hard for her to wrestle with her own shortcomings and move on to become a better person. All of these things help to humanize this character who might otherwise come across as overly bitter and catty (though I know this was exactly the reason why some readers didn’t click with Tess. For me, it worked.).

There are some interesting plot elements as well. Tess and her Quigutl friend Pathka experience no shortage of adventures over the course of this book, but Tess herself truly is under the spotlight the whole time. 

Tess is a character I won’t soon forget and I really cherished my time with her. Tess of the Road is a spin-off of the bestselling books Seraphina and Shadow Scale. It’s recommended that you read Seraphina first to get a better understanding of the world of Goredd, however I didn’t read Seraphina prior to Tess and I didn’t have too much trouble with it. Just thought I’d mentioned that in case you would rather not jump in totally blind.

IG: @foxingfae | Do not use my images without permission

Instagram || Tumblr || Goodreads || Pinterest || TikTok