I recently read two books back to back that strangely really worked off of each other – Edward Carey’s Lungdon, which is the third book of the Iremonger trilogy, and Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police.
I started the Iremonger trilogy in 2016, and was quite smitten. It’s a strange, strange book, and I remember coming back to work and telling our Reader’s Advisor that while the content isn’t particularly mature or anything like that, the language might pose a challenge for our younger readers. It’s written in an almost hypnotic vernacular – although, perhaps, vernacular isn’t even the right word for it – it’s difficult to get into at first but it’s so well written that you forget very quickly that this isn’t how people normally speak.
There’s lots of friendship, and love, and family, and self-realization, and things like that, but above all, without giving too much away, the series leaves you thinking about what it means to own something, or to belong somewhere (there’s a particular moment towards the very end of the third book with Clod’s grandfather that made me gasp out loud, when everything sort of slid neatly into place like a perfectly cut puzzle).
Right after I finished it, I picked up The Memory Police – I’d seen it in a bookstore, and had it on my to-read list, and then stumbled across it at the library. I love Yoko Ogawa’s other work, everything of hers I’ve read has been haunting and beautiful and mesmerising in that specific lingering way of Japanese literature, and this was no exception.
The story is basically about people living on an island where objects disappear, and with them, the residents’ memories of the objects disappear too. Some residents don’t forget though, and eponymous The Memory Police hunt these non-forgettors down. Our protagonist, who is a novelist, finds out that her editor can’t forget, and so she sets out to hide him.
We get to see her story, and at the same time, the story of her protagonist, and the parallels between them.
It’s been a pretty rewarding couple of reading weeks for me, but these two books in particular just went so well together that I was in an extra bit of a stupor after I finished them both. I’ve been sticking to much lighter things for the time being, I think it’ll be a little while yet before I’m ready to lose myself like that again.