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The Memory Police - Yōko Ogawa Review

I recently finished the highly praised novel from Yōko Ogawa - The Memory Police. This is a massive hit over on Bookstagram, so I was really keen to read it. Main praise for this book comes from Yōko Ogawa's prose being very poetic.

Before we get into what I thought, let's break down the story...


The novel was written is 1994 and is a science-fiction. The novel takes place on a dystopian island where items disappear due to the work of The Memory Police. This is the norm for people who live on the island, who regularly wake up to new things disappearing. Throughout the novel we see disappearances of things such as birds, roses and hats - as well as items that are more significant throughout the novel.

When an item on the island disappears, the residents lose all memory of the item - so no one on the island can remember hats, birds or roses after they have disappeared. We follow a young novelist who discovers she has a friend who doesn't forget disappeared items, and we follow her journey of protecting her friend from The Memory Police and also diving into why some people forget and why others don't.

Rating: 4/5

I really enjoyed reading this, as I expected from all of the shining reviews on this book - Yōko Ogawa's prose is very lyrical and beautiful which makes the whole novel seem really poetic whilst portraying a fairly devastating story.

I like how the book makes us question memory - how we link items and objects to memories, how smells, sounds and destinations can remind us of a person or time of our lives. I think this book also explores an idea of censorship, about the things we can and cannot consume which I found really interesting.

For me, I think a significant theme of this book is highlighting the potential switch from manual labour jobs to technology. Throughout the book, people are constantly worrying about whether a disappearance will affect their job. For example - when the hats disappear, the local hat-maker has to find a new job because there is no place for him anymore. Given the time that this book was written, I think it's expressing a concern for where we will fit when we are surrounded by technology and automation. This may not be the case at all but it's just something I took from it!

Overall, the story really struck a cord with me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and I found I was flying through chapters because they were so easy to become absorbed in.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in dystopian fiction or is a fan of really poetic writing.

Have you read this book before? I want to know what you thought of it! Head over to my Instagram and send me a message letting me know what you thought - I'd love to know.

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