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The Memory Police

A Novel
Narrated by: Traci Kato-Kiriyama
Length: 9 hrs and 8 mins
5 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

2019 National Book Award Finalist  

New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year   

A haunting Orwellian novel about the terrors of state surveillance, from the acclaimed author of The Housekeeper and the Professor.

On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses - until things become much more serious. Most of the island's inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten.

When a young woman who is struggling to maintain her career as a novelist discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards. As fear and loss close in around them, they cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past.

A surreal, provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss, The Memory Police is a stunning new work from one of the most exciting contemporary authors writing in any language.

©2019 Yoko Ogawa and Stephen Snyder (P)2019 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"An elegantly spare dystopian fable.... Reading The Memory Police is like sinking into a snowdrift: lulling yet suspenseful, it tingles with dread and incipient numbness.... Ogawa’s ruminant style captures the alienation of being alive as the world’s ecosystems, ice sheets, languages, animal species and possible futures vanish more quickly than any one mind can apprehend." (The New York Times Book Review)

"The Memory Police is a masterpiece: a deep pool that can be experienced as fable or allegory, warning and illumination. It is a novel that makes us see differently, opening up its ideas in inconspicuous ways, knowing that all moments of understanding and grace are fleeting. It is political and human, it makes no promises. It is a rare work of patient and courageous vision.... [It] reaches English-language readers as if sent from the future." (The Guardian)

"A masterful work of speculative fiction.... An unforgettable literary thriller full of atmospheric horror." (Chicago Tribune)

What members say

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Booky Nooky
  • 2019-12-13

A Calm, Quiet Dystopian

THE MEMORY POLICE by Yoko Ogawa is presented as a typical dystopian novel. The book jacket uses works like "Orwellian" and "terrors of state surveillance" but what unfolds over the story is very different than expected.

On an unnamed island objects are systematically disappearing. People wake up to realize that photographs, hats, roses, or birds have disappeared. Not only are the objects physically disappeared through disposal but the objects fade from memory, becoming erased from history. But not for everyone: some people posses the power to recall lost objects. These people are hunted by the Memory Police, whose job it is to ensure the disappeared objects remain forgotten. The story follows an unnamed young novelist who helps hide her editor from capture by the Memory Police.

Sounds like a pretty exciting and tense story, huh? NOPE. The story is calm and quiet in a way that I have not experienced with other dystopian novels. And that's not a bad thing! The best way I can describe THE MEMORY POLICE is a poetic meditation on loss. The inhabitants of the island have an unquestioning acceptance and are rarely fearful, even as their world is vanishing. As objects disappear, life simple adapts and moves on. It's beautiful, unsettling, and totally original in concept but not necessarily the most entertaining book. Though the story was somewhat unsatisfying, not provide answers to any questions, it was through-provoking and an overall oddball book that I enjoyed reading.

If THE MEMORY POLICE were written by an American author (or worse made into an American movie) the story would be about fighting back against a fascist, totalitarian government and likely Scarlett Johansson would be cast as the lead and she would be badass! But that wouldn't be special and would totally ruin the beauty of this book!

Hats off to Okawa (and Stephen Snyder for his beautiful translation) for this totally unique, totally memorable novel!

*** Pantheon Books provided the book for honest review

Follow my Instagram for more book reviews and fun book content: @BookyNooky

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Pat
  • 2019-09-21

thoughtful

it is a thought provoking story to me, about keeping what is most important to us. and about questioning our view of the world. it seems to ask how do we hold our thoughts and our expressions as items of value. and freedom. what will we pay to be free to express ourselves? so we value our self expression? can someone take our expressions away from us?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • SWarren
  • 2019-09-09

Interesting concept but lost me after awhile

I struggled with this story. Had some interesting points but overall definitely not my favorite.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Houston Brassfield
  • 2020-01-10

Uneventful & Slow

A wonderful plot just not explored thoroughly. There’s no explanation and there’s no follow through. Could have been an amazing story, but fell very flat.

Great for young adults or teenagers, or someone wanting a soft-thrill novel.

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  • Gerry Levine
  • 2019-08-28

Strange, atmospheric and deeply troubling

What if dementia was inflicted upon us through an autocratic order manipulating society using neurosciences. What if all we knew and valued in our world was gradually stolen from our memories so it no longer existed for us. WhT would we be?

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Lisa N Reuss
  • 2019-08-23

INTERESTING

I did like this book. I thought it was an interesting concept, and I listened wondering how it would all play out. Sadly, the ending was very unsatisfying. The narrator was very good; she had a sweet, calm, soothing voice. I just thought the story itself could have ended in a way that made more sense. It got a little ridiculous and actually sad toward the end, and then the ending itself left me wanting answers. But the book overall was good.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Lyle Stout
  • 2019-08-31

Forgettable novel

Strange, meaningless premise that devolves into nothingness. Stopped listening after five chapters. Not everyone can be a Kawabata.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Robert
  • 2019-09-06

Listener beware!

There may be some deep meaning hidden in this book but I never found it, so think carefully before starting it.

0 of 4 people found this review helpful