The One Memory of Flora Banks: Book Review

I was looking for a new book/s to read last month so I did what I usually do. I go to the Dymocks website (Australia’s major book retailer) and went through the ‘Most Popular’ section and came across The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. Now I must confess that I am one of those people who judge a book by its cover and it’s usually the first thing that draws me in, then I read the little synopsis and decide from there. Clearly this book got me on both fronts because I went out and bought it.

Overall I was okay with the book, I didn’t find it the best book I’ve ever read but it wasn’t a complete disaster. In saying that it was only the third part that saved it.

The book was separated into 3 parts, in the first part I was hooked, by the end of the second they lost me and the third they satisfied me…just.
Part One of the book was straight into the big event and detail, we quickly learn that Flora has a type of amnesia, from what we are told originated from post-surgery on a tumor in her head that was found at age 10. She only remembers things that happened before the surgery, so when she remembers kissing Drake (her best-friends boyfriend) it becomes a big deal. I enjoyed this part because it was the essence of the synopsis, it was why I bought the book. I wanted to know what was the first thing she remembered, who did she kiss?, why she remembered. So I quite enjoyed this part as I did part two… for the most part.
Part Two was about mystery, the mystery of Drake and Flora’s long distance relationship, the parents’ secrets, and eventually Flora’s travels. We find out that Flora’s estranged step-brother Jacob is living in France and is quite ill, queue the parents leaving Flora in the capable hands of Paige (Flora’s best-friend who helped her with so much since the tumor who is now not talking to Flora because she kissed Drake), but what Flora’s parents don’t know is that Paige never steps foot in that house when they leave. In fact Flora is left by herself and manages quite well, well enough to travel to Svalbard (Norway) – the place Drake has just moved to. The only reason she does so is because of their correspondence, they’ve been talking regularly and it really seems as though Drake wants Flora to visit him. This part was my favourite section in the book, I felt I was living the life of someone with amnesia – to an extent of course. What I’m trying to say is the methods used by Flora of writing everything down in her books, on her body or on sticky notes felt so realistic. Especially when I would put the book down and not continue reading for a few days. I felt this is a great book for someone who doesn’t get to read a chapter or two every single day because almost every chapter of part two reminds you or brings you back up to speed with what’s happening thanks to Flora’s use of reminders. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard let alone how scary it would be to live in a world where you can’t rely on your own memory. The level of bravery and courage that Flora possessed in this book was my take away message, ‘be brave’ sounds simple but it’s hard to do in some circumstances. I didn’t like how this section ended though – Flora imagined everything that happened, Drake didn’t kiss her, he kissed another girl Lily and Flora created this fantasy in her head and was actually behind the correspondence between the two. Personally when I started reading the book and found out she was going to go to Svalbard I knew there had to be some sort of twist at that point and I thought that twist would be that she wasn’t actually talking to Drake rather somebody else who had intercepted the emails and conversations and wanted to get close to Flora, this theory became even stronger for me when the man who works in the cafe was introduced I picked him to be a bit shifty, nonetheless I was wrong. The real twist felt like a blame game and I really thought to myself what the hell was the point of this. So I stopped reading for a while.
Part three came along and saved the story line in my opinion. Flora is back in Penzance and is very drugged up, she doesn’t know that her brother has died, that she traveled to Svalbard, that she has had numerous adventures. Until Paige comes back into the story and completes the story – Drake lied, Flora did kiss him, they did email, he did want her to visit and she did REMEMBER! Then we find out Jacob (Flora’s brother) has sent a letter to Paige to get to Flora. It tells her (and us) that there was no tumor, in fact there was a car accident on the way to Flambards, a place Flora had slowly started to bring up whenever she was not drugged. She was remembering. Paige’s character is brought in again to do what Jacob can no longer, get the drugs away from Flora because she is brave and wonderful without them. I didn’t quite like the part when they bring in the doctor and say Flora is 18 and can make her own decision but she’s still being a little pressured into doing it. They were trying to give her freedom but in a way they were still telling her what to do? Maybe that’s just how I saw it?

Overall it was an okay book. If you read books bit by bit I’d recommend it. I don’t think it’s been my favourite, although I did like the character of Flora so if there was a sequel focusing on her future I may give it a go. It was an interesting concept that executed the feeling of amnesia pretty well, for someone who doesn’t know what it would be like I think Barr did well.

– ME

  “I kept my distance so you would be free, in hope that you find the missing piece”
– Adele

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