Review: Memory by Christoph Marzi

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Title: Memory
Author: Christoph Marzi
Publisher: Orchard Books
Date of Publication: August 1, 2013

This is a book about a ghost called Story. She's lost in the city - alone, afraid and without her memory. Then she meets Jude, a boy who sees the dead. And he is the only one who can help her remember...

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Victoria of Hachette Children's Books UK for the review copy! Having received a review copy did not affect my views of the novel whatsoever.

Christoph Marzi's Memory is yet another evidence that I just love reading novels involving ghosts and ghost romances. I'm just a fan of the innate conflict it brings and that there's no compromise. They'll only get a happy ending if both of them are dead or both of them are alive. Sure, the alive one can still be happy in the future after he/she moves on but of course, as a reader, I'll be brokenhearted because I want them to be together! I'm just a fan of stories featuring great divides such as the divide between the living and the dead. Yes, I do know that these kinds of stories also employ the deus ex machina trope more often than not because that's probably the only way they will be together but for this type of novels, I. do. not. care. at. all. I let it pass because I value the journey and trials the couple face more than how they solve it all in the end.

Memory was originally written in German and published in 2011. While I don't have anything against translated novels, it does make you worry at times if something will be lost in the translation. Fear not as Memory still felt cohesive and continuous as far as I noticed. For the nitpicky readers, maybe they'll feel something is off, especially for those who actually reside in London. Well, I found the use of words like 'whilst', 'telly' and 'knackered' British enough so I have no qualms.

The prologue certainly gave me the chills. I live right next to a cemetery (I am not kidding) so I'm not afraid of cemeteries (I used to play there when I was a kid) but I got scared by that prologue. It definitely made me want to read more. I do have to warn you that Memory's writing is full of descriptions, which gives it an atmospheric feel. You can feel the leaves rustling during autumn, you can feel the cold in the cemetery, you can see the light cast by the moon and I'd like to commend Christoph and the translator for that feat. Though for some, this might not be a good thing since it sometimes renders the story slow. The parts where there are dialogues and action were fast-paced but when it gets to the descriptions again, it kind of drags. I don't mind this because I'm a fan of description-heavy books so I can get a feel of the world but it did take me days to finish this book. Kind of funny and quirky timing that I finished reading this when I went to a wake. If you think I'm really weird right now, it's okay.

So, the plot. Jude Finney can see ghosts and in here, Marzi has given ghosts different personalities and characteristics. Ghosts are bound to their graveyard and they cannot go far from where their bodies are. Ghosts are also dreams of the life they had and they can also eat, drink and sleep. Most importantly, ghosts are generally happy people who party every night. Well, at least that's how Gaskell and the Highgate Cemetry ghosts are. Jude discovers his ability to see and interact with ghosts from a road accident and there he meets Miss Rathbone, a vixen. Foxes guard cemeteries and Miss Rathbone is the resident fox of Highgate Cemetery. Jude prefers the company of ghosts and goes to the cemetery as much as he can. But one night, he sees a girl who's not dead nor alive. She's limping and she can't remember anything, which means she's not a ghost. But she's also not alive. Jude brings her to Gaskell and the gang and they name her Story as she's now in the search of her story and her body. Jude and Story go on around London trying to know who Story is and how to find her body. But time's ticking as Story slowly starts remembering things, which means she's slowly dying as well. They end up discovering a far more sinister plot than they could ever imagine. *dun dun dun cue horror music*

Memory was parts mystery, thriller and romance. The romance in here was a muted one and it was certainly not the focus. However, I did like how it developed and how cute it was. Sure, Jude found Story pretty and he felt the urge to help her (might be a messiah complex or pity or Story is just too beautiful) but he didn't like her immediately. (And as Gaskell said, the most honorable reason to do something is to impress a girl. Haha!) Bit by bit, he started noticing her mannerisms and they got to know each other, even if there's almost nothing to know about Story at first. Story was ever the cute and funny girl, amidst being a ghost. I usually don't like damsels in distress but while Story is definitely a damsel in distress and that Jude pretty much did most of the work, I can't fault her because she can't do anything besides try to be as helpful as she can and accompany Jude.

Jude is sweet in my opinion (He plays the guitar and he made a song for Story! *sigh*) and a really smart kid. He has his issues having no mother and a father who's mostly away as a scientist. And even when his father's home, they don't talk much. This is why he mostly stays with the dead because he feels at home there. At least there's an explanation as to why he can just go about hanging out in a cemetery and that his father played a part near the end of the novel. So this novel didn't suffer from the lack-of-parental-units trope. Jude mostly keeps to himself, which is why I think he's perfect for the effervescent Story too. Gaskell, a legendary rock star, now dead, was hilarious. His funny quips and I just love how he's larger than life. He's the most alive person in this whole novel and he's a ghost at that! Miss Rathbone acted as a mother figure to Jude and though evasive with her non-answers, was their main ally.

I like the mishmash 'mythology' in this one. It was different because while the novel is set in London, Indian mythology plays a role as well. Plus, there are ghosts, foxes who can change into human form, stone angels who guard the cemetery and turn anyone who breathes into stone, faceless ghost murderers, lanterns that disintegrates and sucks in ghosts, water spirits and while you might think it's chaotic, Marzi was able to jive all of these into one coherent idea. Some might call this novel ambitious as it tried to tackle a lot and it squeezed in a lot but for me, more action is better than less!

Like I said and as expected, Memory had a deus ex machina moment and the novel itself glossed over it. Below is an excerpt from the novel.
"You should never question magic. If you did, it could lose its effectiveness."
So I did and just accepted everything. Still, I enjoyed how Jude and Story got Story's story, how they interacted and the world Christoph Marzi crafted so I can look past the minor reservations I had. And THAT ending? Hey Jude~

Christoph Marzi, while being a tight storyteller, peppered the narrative with lush descriptions that has successfully transported me to the eerie cemeteries of London. Moreover, Memory has successfully invested me to knowing and finding Story as much as the characters. I recommend Memory to fans of urban fantasy (I'm not a fan but I enjoyed it so how much more would a fan, right?) and to fans of descriptive mystery thrillers as well. 

About Christoph Marzi

Christoph Marzi is the successful author of many books for teens in Germany, including the prize-winning Ancient City series. He works as a teacher and lives in Saarbrucken with his wife and three daughters.


  1. This sounds like such an interesting book! I don't read too many ghost romance stories, just cause it's hard to have a happy ending I think, but I do love well written, atmospheric mysteries and this sounds great! Loved reading your review!

    1. I know. I think I'm setting up myself for too much happiness or too much sadness by being such a fan of romances featuring great divides. And if you love well-written, atmospheric mysteries, then this if definitely for you! Thanks for stopping by, Charlene!

  2. Great review! This books sounds good! New follower :)

    Cierra @ Books Ahoy

    1. It is good! Thanks for the follow and for giving some comment love, Cierra! <3


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