Molly Guinness

Too much remembrance of things past

Remember Me . . . is the story of a ten-year love affair, which begins in the early 1960s when Joe, an undergraduate polymath from the north, persuades Natasha, French, artistic, mysterious and slightly older than him, to trust him and finally to fall in love with him.

Remember Me . . . is the story of a ten-year love affair, which begins in the early 1960s when Joe, an undergraduate polymath from the north, persuades Natasha, French, artistic, mysterious and slightly older than him, to trust him and finally to fall in love with him. Melvyn Bragg ensures that we see their life together at every stage along the way, and from every point of view. The consequence is that the novel details not only the many nuances that affect the relationship, but the excitement of young professional success at the BBC, of gaining a circle of trusted friends and of learning to write novels. Nearly all the subsidiary characters have well-defined personalities, and this is achieved by courageously extensive deployment of dialogue, all of which is convincing. This is an especially admirable achievement, as much of the dialogue concerns the intellectual and aesthetic concerns of a generation; this type of conversation is always in danger of seeming contrived, even when it is spoken, but Bragg manages to make it sound authentic and interesting at the same time.

The main thrust of the plot is emotional; surprises lurk in the psyches of Joe and Natasha; moments of tension rest on the anxiety that one of them will suddenly fall prey to inner demons, and darkling suspense is built up around Natasha’s mental fragility. The pair attracts touching loyalty in their friends, and their relationships with their own families are sensitively drawn. Throughout, there are observations of acute insight, especially towards the end when the weakening effect of psychoanalysis contributes to a frightening downward spiral, as it removes the layers of mental scar-tissue from the traumas of the past.

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