I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.
Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.
Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw.
Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.
Irene tells her story in dual time. Now in 2002 she has reached the end of her tether. Exhausted with taking care of her mother who suffers from dementia and incontinence and only sleeps fitfully, she relives a memory that her mother never mentions and she feels she must do something for her sister Rose, who died so many years before.
Irene had been offered the opportunity of a rewarding career as a teacher, as well as the love of Sam whom she had known all her life, but she has given up her happiness for the sake of her devotion to those she loves. First, she took care of Rose, who had Down’s syndrome, then when her Nanna became gravely ill, she nursed her. When faithful Sam gave her love and companionship she ended up providing care for his sick father and finally she was drawn back to her wayward mother, feeling compelled to live in the house which still seems to be haunted by Rose.
Seeing events through Irene’s eyes doesn’t prevent the reader from realising how badly she treats Sam. His patience is almost unbelievable until he takes time out, working away from home. When their long-awaited child fails to come, even the kindness of friends who give them a temporary home does not prevent Irene trapping herself with the mother she once loved before Rose was born.
This 20th century story addresses many problems of women in a time of great change. The urge to be a mother, carer and homemaker contrasts with the ambition to achieve and to make a difference. Society’s approval and understanding easily turns to disapproval and misunderstanding. At times tremendously sad, the novel also shows social features and friendship in a world before mobile phones, the internet and Netflix. In a tale full of “What ifs” it is good to see Irene finally moving forward in the new century.
The Memory on Amazon UK
Although I was born and brought up in a small village on the edge of the Pennine moors in Yorkshire, for the last forty years I’ve lived with my husband and family near the coast in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK, a gloriously beautiful place. I’ve written all my life and have had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. But I only started to seriously write novels after I’d had breast cancer twenty years ago.
Judith has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. She is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres. Her next book, The Heart Stone, is due to be published in 2021.