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Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Memorist Probes the Greatest Mystery of All - The Human Mind

Although many of the world's religions hold reincarnation as a sacred tenet, skeptics abound. Chief among them is 31-year-old Meer Logan, heroine of M.J. Rose's new novel, The Memorist. Despite the fact that Meer, a memory specialist working at the Natural History Museum in New York, has experienced "the dreads" - disturbing images from a bygone era invading her mind - since she was a child, she refuses to believe her father's supposition that what she's seeing are actually suppressed memories from a past life. Meer adores her dad, a treasure hunter who has been dubbed the "Jewish Indiana Jones," but unlike him, she's a pragmatist. She's also tired of being the guinea pig for him and his fellow reincarnationists. As haunting as her "visions" are, Meer knows they are simply false memories. Period. End of story.

When an object of historical importance surfaces in Vienna, all of Meer's beliefs fly out the window. The gaming box, once owned by Beethoven, is as familiar to her as her own hand. It's the item she's been drawing since she was a child. Only, she has no memories of actually seeing the box. Yet, it strikes a chord in the furthest reaches of her mind. Her father sees the incident as proof positive that reincarnation exists. Meer's not so sure, but she's also not sure how to explain away the familiarity of the box. Knowing she will not rest until she sees the box in person, Meer boards a plane for Vienna.

In Austria, her father, Jeremy, makes a startling discovery - Beethoven's box has a false bottom. Hidden in the secret space is a letter from the composer to Antonie Brentano, the woman rumored to be his "Immortal Beloved." The letter refers to an ancient bone flute, covered in intricate markings, the music of which can open the listener's mind to his past lives. When the discovery gets leaked to the media, a number of dubious characters descend on Vienna. A violent death in the city proves that some of them will kill to get their hands on Beethoven's magic flute.

Meer's episodes take on new significance in Vienna, where her every step seems to trigger another vision. Why is she running, terrified, through the woods in her waking nightmares? How does she know exactly what Beethoven's homes looked like, when she has never been through them before? Could her father's theories possibly be correct? And will she ever learn what to do with the music that has played through her mind for nearly 30 years? What does it all mean? As Meer searches for her own answers, she must discern her friends from her foes. Can she trust Sebastian, who sees the flute as a way to mend his son's psychotic break? What about her father's confidante who has been accused of stealing artifacts in the past? And what of the FBI Agent, who so tirelessly watches her every move? What's his interest? Most importantly, who is hiding under the music hall with a duffel bag full of explosives? Can he be stopped? All of the questions will be answered as the book screams toward its dramatic conclusion.

I had a bit of trouble getting into this book at first. Maybe it's because I didn't read the first novel in the series, The Reincarnationist, or maybe it's because I don't believe in the whole reincarnation concept - whatever the reason, I felt a little lost at first. Once the plot started moving, however, the story grabbed me. It's difficult to describe the book, but it's kind of a combination of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, althoug I felt it lacked the urgency of the former and the depth of the latter. My biggest beef was that I didn't feel very connected to the main character, Meer. She's dreary and downright dull in her present life. Her past lives up her interesting quotient, but they also make her less relatable to me. The story dragged in places, but the last third of the book had me turning pages as fast as I could. All considered, I enjoyed The Memorist. It didn't make a believer out of me, but it did keep me entertained for most of its 452 pages. Check it out if you enjoy thrillers with a historical bent - or if "The Dreads" are keeping you awake at night.

Grade: B

(Book Image from Barnes & Noble)


  1. I've been wanting to read these! It would be even better to win them first. I'm interested in both so I'll post a separate comment for each. If I get to come back in another life I would love to be my husband's dog. She is a princess! I can't imagine a better life. This is a great contest! I'm adding it to my blog.

  2. This is my post for the next book. Does it matter which one? The Memorist? If I had another life before this one I think I was some kind of referee or traffic cop. It seems like I'm always breaking up my kids from one squabble or another and constantly directing them in what they are suppose to be doing. I have to admit, they have gotten better with age. Thanks again. This was fun!

  3. I really enjoyed this one. I read The Reincarnationist first, but I don't think it's necessary to do so. There's only one character in both books, and he's not one of the prominent ones.

    Diary of an Eccentric


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