When she was nine years old, Melody Browne's house burned down, taking every toy, every photograph, every item of clothing and old Christmas card with it. But not only did the fire destroy all her possessions, it took with it all her memories - Melody Browne can remember nothing before her ninth birthday.I've heard many great things about Lisa Jewell's books, but up to now I haven't read any of them. I decided to start with Melody Browne since her story sounded very intriguing and I've heard nothing but praise about it. I can't say what I was expecting, but I was definitely completely unprepared for all the sadness and heartbreak contained within the pages of the book. Nonetheless, this was an absolutely fantastic and riveting read!
Now in her early thirties, Melody lives in a council flat in the middle of London with her seventeen-year-old son. She hasn't seen her parents since she left home at fifteen, but Melody doesn't mind, she's better off on her own. She's made a good life for herself and her son and she likes it that way.
Until one night something extraordinary happens. Whilst attending a hypnotist show with her first date in years she faints - and when she comes round she starts to remember.
At first her memories mean nothing to her but then slowly, day by day, she begins to piece together the real story of her childhood. Her journey takes her to the seaside town of Broadstairs, to oddly familiar houses in London backstreets and to meetings with strangers who love her like their own.
But with every mystery she solves another one materialises, with every question she answers another appears. And Melody begins to wonder if she'll ever know the truth about her past.
The story opens on the night of the fire when Melody was nine years and three days old and finds herself outside the burning house with her family.
After this blast from the past, we meet a 32-year-old Melody who now lives in Covent Garden with her nearly 18-year-old son Ed and works as a dinner lady. She's leading a simple life, but she cannot she cannot remember anything that happened to her before the fire. She also hasn't seen her parents or talked to them since she became pregnant at the age of 15; after that it was just her and her son in their council flat.
Things start to change one day when she wears a sleveless dress on the number 14 bus - that's when she meets Ben, who takes her to see a hypnotist and after she receives a dose of his magic, most curious things start to happen to her ... She slowly starts remembering things about the first nine years of her life. At first it's just random and seemingly meaningless memories, but they're enough to encourage Memory to start researching her past ...
The chapters alternate between now and then, i.e. Melody's childhood up to the fire. We learn that her parents were once happy together, but then tragedy struck, which caused her family to fall apart. After that, Melody's life was anything but ordinary - there were some happy moments, but mostly there was just heartbreak and pain. My heart broke for Melody with each discovery she made about her past and by the end I was not at all surprised that the only way for Melody to cope was to forget everything.
This is definitely a plot-driven book - there's a fascinating mystery at the heart of it that had me reading with my eyes wide open. I couldn't wait to get to the bottom of it and yet I was terrified to learn what else Melody had to endure during the first nine years of her life. The book tackles some very serious topics (child loss, divorce, depression, death, suicide, prison etc.), but there's also hope and love, even in the most extraordinary circumstances.
The plot and the writing and the cover were alright, no complaints, but this book really excels in plot, which was well structured - I loved how the prologue took on a whole new meaning after I finished the book and read it again. The book just blew me away and I still can't stop thinking about it. It's not an easy read as such, but it's certainly incredibly powerful and touching and gripping. All I can say is WHOA, I am amazed.
plot: 5/5 | writing: 4/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 4/5