Flora Banks has anterograde amnesia, which means that she can’t form any new memories. She has some long-term memories from before she was ten – she knows her parents, and her best friend Paige, for example – but anything since the age of ten when she had a brain tumour and surgery to remove the tumour doesn’t stick.
One night, Flora is at a party and kisses a boy. And the next day, she remembers it. A new memory has formed for the first time in almost 8 years. But the boy has gone, travelled up to Svalbard, Norway to study.
Does this newly-formed memory mean that she is beginning to get better? With her parents absent, she hatches a plan to follow Drake, the boy in question, to find out.
When I saw this novel on Netgalley I was instantly intrigued. It’s not a new premise, and anyone who has seen the film Memento will see some similarities in the protagonists’ plights, although Flora being a seventeen-year-old girl does mean that this has quite a different vibe to it. But, she does write notes, both in a notebook as well as on post-its and on her arms and hands. She also has “Flora’s Story” – a book put together by her mother that explains her amnesia, and what it means for her:
You’ll never live anywhere but Penzance, because this is the only place in which you’re safe. This town is mapped in your mind and it is your home. You will always live with us, and we will always look after you and you will be fine.
For a seventeen-year-old, I think that this is a horrifying prospect to have to deal with – the idea that you’ll always be looked after by your parents, because you’re considered incapable of looking after yourself.
But, Flora is an incredibly plucky character, and once alone she proves herself to be determined and clever – more so than you might have believed up to this point. And the reader does start to wonder whether the people around her are being over-protective. That said, she does get up to some mischief, and paints half her bedroom whilst her parents are away. There are a few humorous moments like this, even as I felt occasionally anxious about what she was going to get up to next. And heading out to Norway is no mean feat for a young woman who has to constantly remind herself where she’s going. But she manages it, and I was cheering her along the whole way.
This is a quick read, and I got through it in two sittings. It struck me as something of a modern-day adventure story, with our young protagonist going on their quest, despite the barriers thrown in their way. And whilst Flora’s struggles are different to those of many others, there’s a strong message of believing in yourself. Of course, there is a twist at the end, and whilst it wasn’t entirely unexpected, I did find it to be quite shocking. The novel ends on a note of optimism for Flora, however, and I would say that she is one of those characters that will stay with me for some time.
The One Memory of Flora Banks is available now as an eBook, and will be published in paperback on 12 January. Many thanks to the publisher, Penguin Random House, for providing a copy for review via Netgalley.