Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: The Memory Palace

5 out of 5

From the moment I watched the book trailer, I was hooked. I knew I needed to read this book. It grabbed at me and touched me before I had even read it. Not too many books have had that effect on me.

The Memory Palace, by Mira Bartók, is a painting unveiled with words. Every page, every description, and every nuance is like poetry. This is a beautiful poem about a mother and daughter who are forced to tackle mental illness and forgiveness throughout a young girl’s life.

I think Bartók’s work should be commended. Not only did she write a beautiful memoir about her life, she allowed herself to be vulnerable to readers. I’m not sure I’d have the bravery needed to write my own biography. Bartók left herself open to be criticized, and she was, by me. In some areas of this book, I could not help but ask, “Why would you leave your mother?” and then I would answer with, “Oh, that’s why.” I may not have agreed with everything she did in the book, but who am I to judge?

It begins with a young woman rushing to her mother’s aide. Her mother is dying from cancer and she needs to get to her immediately. One thing that struck me was this:
“Even now, when the phone rings late at night, I think it’s her. I stumble out of bed ready for the worst---.”
Bartók begins her story this way, not because she’s aware of her mother’s ailment, but, because she’s worried about her mother’s ‘aliment’. From the beginning, the readers are aware of one thing: Norma Herr is mentally sick, mentally unstable, and physically dangerous to be around. Bartók, and her sister, fled from their mother years before and are terrified whenever she calls them. Eventually, Mira becomes aware of her mother’s impending death, and races to her mother’s side. From that point on, she opens up this beautiful poetic memoir.

Each chapter begins with a journal entry written by Norma Herr (Bartók’s mother) and a painting Bartók, herself, created. I really loved these additions. I felt they tied together this story in a glorious manner. Being inside Norma’s head was scary and amazing; and, because art is such a big part of this memoir, seeing it firsthand was a breathtaking addition.

The Memory Palace takes it’s time in rehashing Bartók’s life. It takes off when Mira was a little girl named, Myra, and ends just after Herr’s death in 2007. Each memory is fantastically recited with great detail. I loved each passage and journey. From Italy, Israel, Norway, and the heartbreaking recanting from United States, each one will tug on the readers’ heartstrings.

Put all judgment aside, I found myself (more than once) pointing the finger at Bartók and wishing she would have been a better daughter. The point being, I had no right to think that because I have no idea what it was like for her.

To conclude, I highly recommend everyone run out and pick up a copy of The Memory Palace. Be enthralled and awestruck by a heartbreaking, yet heartwarming, story.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


  1. This one is already on my wishlist. Can't wait to read it!

  2. I have this book. It arrived on the 26 of Jan. I will start reading it on my quiet day sunday. that trailer was kinda of strangy. lol. It has gotten great reviews.


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