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The Memorist (thoughts)

January 22, 2009

The MemoristThis was supposed to run this morning, but WordPress has informed me it ‘missed its schedule.’ Sorry about that! -Eva I read lots of good things about M.J. Rose’s The Memorist back during her blog tour, so when TLC Book Tours asked if I’d like to review it, I jumped at the chance. I was hoping for a page-turning literary thriller…and I got the page-turning thriller part.

In case you missed all the book blog reviews previously, you can read about the plot here. Reincarnation, Beethoven, a flute, Vienna, and a Jewish secret society: got all that? And while this book takes place in the same world as Rose’s earlier book The Reincarnationist, it’s a stand alone novel (I know this because I haven’t read The Reincarnationist and I never felt like I was missing things).

There were aspects of the book that I really liked. I’ve only been to Vienna once, and it was quite awhile ago, but Rose really evoked a sense of place. We get to see both modern-day Vienna and the Vienna of Beethoven’s time (through flashbacks). In both instances, I felt as if I was walking through the city alongside the characters, appreciating its architecture, popping into a cafe, exploring old cemeteries and churches. It was fun, and unexpected in a thriller-type book, to have the setting play such an important role. Rose used Vienna to create the book’s atmosphere, to great effect. I also loved the importance of music in the book; many of the characters were musicians or music-lovers, and the whole frantic quest is about a very old flute and a melody that will make people remember their past lives. As someone who grew up with music (I played the violin and the clarinet and sang first soprano), I loved seeing one form of art-a book-celebrate another. And it had me on youtube playing performances of the various pieces mentioned, so it definitely promotes classical music! Also, Rose has the tricks of the thriller-trade down: she uses really short chapters and jumping narrative points of view to great effect. I always wanted to turn the page to find out what would happen next. It didn’t feel like a chunkster (which, at 453 pages, it just qualifies as) at all! This partly has to do with the fact that I really liked the main character-Meer Logan. I think it’s important in thrillers that you care what happens to the protagonist, and I definitely was rooting for Meer. :) And of course, there was the past lives aspect. While not a part of my religious beliefs, I love the *idea* of reincarnation (and who doesn’t? It’s so romantic to imagine yourself in your favourite time period…dying tragically, having to come back to Earth to learn new lessons…), and I thought it provided a fresh background for the action to play out against.

All of that being said, though, I wouldn’t call this a *literary* thriller. The writing style was nothing special, many of the characters felt cliched (the 6’3″ Texan security guy, the Israeli journalist bent on revenge after his family is blown up, an FBI agent determined in his pursuit of justice, a ‘Jewish Indiana Jones’), and it while it was a good thriller it didn’t transcend the genre. Excepting the incorporation of reincarnation, there was no inventiveness in the book. And the ending was too pat for my tastes (although those who like everything tied up very neat and tidy will probably love it!).

So, would I recommend this? It depends. If you enjoy thrillers, or books with tight, fast-moving plots, I’d definitely give this one a go. But if you put more emphasis on characters or writing style, you’ll probably find yourself disappointed. In the end, I’d categorise this as a fluff book: fun while you’re reading it, but it’s not going to leave much behind once you close the back cover. (Speaking of covers, though, doesn’t it have an awesome one?)

16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2009 3:57 pm

    Hmm…I do enjoy a thriller from time to time so I think I’ll have to check this out. Thanks for the honest review :)

  2. January 22, 2009 5:03 pm

    I am relatively new to this site. I also like the honest quality of this review.

  3. January 22, 2009 5:38 pm

    Enjoyed your review, Eva! I like a good thriller now and then so I’ll keep this one in mind. I think the Vienna setting is what’s calling my name :)

  4. January 22, 2009 6:40 pm

    Yup, I love the cover.

    If you like books that celebrate art, you definitely should read My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok. But it is an incredible book on its own merits.

  5. January 22, 2009 7:24 pm

    Great review! Enough to let me know that this isn’t my kind of read (although I might have been drawn in by the cover)!

  6. January 22, 2009 11:24 pm

    This is a different take on the book, I haven’ read many ‘Not so positive’ reviews on this book. But yeah, I like a good fluff, so why not?

  7. January 23, 2009 8:03 am

    I started The Reincarnationist, but it mostly annoyed me, so I abandoned it. As you mentioned with this one, characters and style were missing and not even the plot appealed. I’ll pass on this one.

  8. January 23, 2009 8:39 am

    Your last paragraph is right on. It really depends on what you like or are in the mood for. This was good for a light read. I haven’t read many thrillers, but I went into this one not expecting characterization or anything “literary” so I wasn’t disappointed. It was pretty fun to read.

  9. January 24, 2009 7:39 am

    Samantha, I’m glad you’ll check it out. :)

    Sharman, thank you!

    Iliana, I did love the Vienna-ness of it all. :D

    Janet, thanks for the rec!!

    Steph, thank you. :)

    Violet, yeah-that’s part of why I wrote it this way is because most of the reviews I’ve seen are gushing.

    JenClair, I was sent a copy of The Reincarnationist as well-I think I’ll save it for if I’m in the mood for a fulffy thriller. :)

    Chain Reader, I think it was fun to read too! I just expected it to be literary from some other reviews I’d read, so I wanted to clarify that for my readers. ;)

  10. January 24, 2009 3:08 pm

    Interesting that you were expecting “literary” … I must not have read those reviews because it met my expectations as a thriller (and those wonderful scenes of Vienna and incorporating classical music, as you describe).

    Yes, I love the cover! MY 4-yr-old thought it was “a partridge in a pear tree”, so I was able to (attempt to) explain to him what a phoenix is.

  11. blacklin permalink
    January 24, 2009 8:17 pm

    Thanks for the review. I have it on my TBR list. The cover is a nice blue. . .

  12. January 27, 2009 12:27 pm

    I liked how the book went so fast, and Rose made the setting come to life for me. I agree about the cliche characters, though.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  13. January 27, 2009 11:03 pm

    Dawn, maybe I was projecting! ;)

    Blacklin, it’s even prettier in person!

    Anna, thanks for the visit. The book definitely went by quickly. :)

  14. February 2, 2009 3:24 pm

    Great review! I, too, felt in many ways that it was too pat. I was intrigued with the idea of reincarnation, but not as offended in my faith as The Da Vinci Code effected me. Probably the best part was the pulling in of Beethoven into her plot. His “Emporer’s Concerto” is one of my favorite pieces of all time.


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