Monday, 9 September 2013

Book review: The Memory Box by Sarah Webb


My edition: Paperback, to be published on 12 September 2013 by Pan Macmillan, 299 pages.

Description: Pandora Schuster is about to turn thirty but that's the least of her worries. She has just been tested for a hereditary family illness and, expecting the worst, she's desperate for her ex-boyfriend and father of nine-year-old Iris to be a part of her daughter's life. But there are two major problems: Olivier Huppert lives in Paris and he has no idea that Iris even exists.

So Pandora secretly tries to find Olivier during her Parisian birthday weekend, but the trip doesn't exactly go to plan. Back in Dublin, as the agonizing weeks until her test results crawl by, Pandora manages to find some distraction with her kind and sensible boyfriend, Declan, and with her fellow Shoestring Club members as they time-share a fabulous new designer dress.

But matters of the heart are not easily forgotten and Pandora is forced to make some serious decisions. She is determined for Iris to know who her father is and creates a memory box filled with photos, letters and mementoes. Pandora's box conjures up magical memories of the time she spent with Olivier in Paris until the past and the present look set to collide she finds herself having to choose between her head and her heart...

Rating:



Pandora's mother died when she was just a teenager and when close to her thirtieth birthday she's contacted by an old friend of her mother's who tells her that she may have a gene that increases her risk of getting cancer, Pandora becomes worried not so much for herself but for her own young daughter, Iris, and the possibility that she too will grow up without a mother.

Trying to plan for the unpredictable future as best as she can Pandora uses her birthday celebrations as an opportunity for a long overdue trip back to France, where she went for a few months to work as an au pair after she finished school and coincidingly conceived her daughter. Her plan is to track down Olivier, the then love of her life, to finally tell him about Iris' existence and ensure that her daughter will have at least one parent looking after her when growing up.

The Memory Box does not only tell the story of Pandora's search for Olivier, but it also focuses on the other members of the Shoestring Club; a group of women who, unable to afford the more expensive vintage clothes from Pandora's shop, buy exquisite pieces of designer wear together and time-share them. It is a clever way of being able to (temporary) afford a piece of clothing normally out of reach and the women also form a close bond of friendship as they ceremoniously pass on the item of choice at special Shoestring dinners.

This is the first novel by Irish author Sarah Webb I have read and so I was unfamiliar with The Shoestring Club going into this read. This was not a problem however, as the characters are so true to life that it feels as if you've known them for years even when it is closer to days, as was the case for me. And any reference made to something that happened before this particular story takes place was explained so as a reader I didn't feel lost at all having no previous knowledge about the women.

I loved the idea of "Pandora's Box". Worried that Iris will grow up without her mother being able to relay all the stories of her life to her, Pandora decides to create a box filled with mementos from the time she spent in Paris working as an au pair and falling in love with Olivier. She writes down a memory in the form of a letter to her daughter for each item she places in the box, making it a very special gift. Even if there is no risk of losing a parent far too early in life I think this is a brilliant idea for parents to give their children something unique and personal that they can cherish for the rest of their lives.

It was very easy to connect to the character of Pandora. Her fear of leaving her daughter at such a young age, coupled with the everlasting responsibility she feels for her family, and her sister Jules in particular, are very relatable. She's had so much to deal with in her life already that when she first learns about the hereditary gene you want nothing more than for her to receive some good news, at last. And so as the weeks passed by in the novel (and days for me) I was equally dreading and longing for the test results, just like the character herself.

I also want to mention Alex, another member of the Shoestring Club, and her husband Markham. I quickly fell in love with the both of them - they are incredibly sweet together! And so when Pandora started helping Alex to overcome some issues I silently cheered her on, willing Alex to take control back over her own life so she and Markie could be truly happy again.

The Memory Box is a sweet yet also very moving novel about friendship, relationships and love, and after finishing it I feel I've gained some wonderful new friends in the Shoestring Club members. And as a (not so) silent hint to the author I'd like to say that I look forward to reading more about them in the future!

You can pre-order your copy from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Waterstones or your own preferred retailer.



Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with her online at:

Website: www.sarahwebb.info

Facebook: facebook.com/sarahwebbauthor

Twitter: @sarahwebbishere


Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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