three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
11-July-Aug-2004
user_rating: 
0

A-RememberMeWhen an elderly woman’s only earthly possessions—a wig and small suitcase—are stolen by a thief, she sets off to track down the perpetrator. During her search, this unreliable and "not all there" narrator delves into her shattered past. Jumping back and forth in time from prewar England to the post-World War II landscape, the narrator recalls her own pitiable life, from an abusive childhood in a small English town to unwanted pregnancies and life on the streets. As she stitches together her past, she realizes that she’s not hunting for her stolen goods. She’s searching for her lost life.
Grove/Atlantic Press. 261 pages. $23.

Seattle Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"… Remember Me could be the most unforgettable book of the year. … [It] swirls from one shocking revelation to another, until its chilling, jaw-dropping resolution, which reveals the harrowing connection between Winnie and the thief." Robert Allen Papinchak

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"This is a story steeped so deeply in melancholy, so intensely and hauntingly dark, yet written with such unblinking poetic intensity that a sort of radiance arises from its bleak pages. … The book is drenched with color and illuminated by recurrent symbols—a bird, a fairground horse, a feather, strands of hair." Elsbeth Lindner

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"…Despair dogs Azzopardi’s gallery of grotesques: the odd child whose red hair is both a curse and a clue; the mad mother; the feckless father; the lost lover; more than one lost child; everything and everyone taken away. … Azzopardi maintains a curious and delicate balance between the harshness of Lillian’s half-perceived life and the faint shimmers of hope that wash through it." Catherine Lockerbie

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s a cruel world that Azzopardi has created, and many of the novel’s themes are dark: suicide, mental illness, solitude, abandonment. … If anything, the novel might be a bit too constructed, and some loose ends are tied in a very convenient manner." Jean Charbonneau

San Francisco Chronicle 2.5 of 5 Stars
"… Remember Me seems best left to readers who find early Anita Brookner novels too brassy. … [Azzopardi] inhabits Winnie’s crabbed, bruised character so completely that reading about her threatens to become claustrophobic." David Kipen

Boston Globe 1.5 of 5 Stars
"By the time the novel’s final secrets are revealed—who, after all, is the mysterious suitcase thief, and what does she want …?—my uncharitable impulse was, alas, to laugh rather than to cry…." Claire Messud

Critical Summary

Critics can’t resist asking whether Azzopardi’s second novel lives up to her short-listed Booker Prize debut, The Hiding Place (2001). The quick answer: yes and no. Remember Me, a plea to recall a neglected and doomed life, is a bleak, beautifully written novel about memory and its capricious power over those who seek to restore it. Azzopardi delves inside her narrator’s admittedly unreliable mind to portray a life scarred by homelessness, alienation, and poverty. It’s a realistic depiction that, at times, feels suffocating for want of outside voices. It’s also confusing. Although "Winnie" is articulate, she’s mentally (though not definably) challenged. The slow, depressing rhythm might deter readers as well. Still, it’s worthy second novel from a promising writer: "Stay with it, and it will break your heart" (Miami Herald).

Also by the Author

A-HidingPlace.epsThe Hiding Place | Trezza Azzopardi (2000): Frequently compared to Angela’s Ashes. Azzopardi offers a fictionalized look at elements of her childhood, charting the course of a poor Maltese immigrant family in 1960s Wales with six daughters and the usual wayward father.