The Memory of the Air by Caroline Lamarche, translated by Katherine Gregor – review

Published by Heloise Press

Publication date – 11 October 2022

Source – review copy

In this book, Caroline Lamarche brings together a highly sophisticated introspective narrative and the most powerful response to psychological and physical violence, breaking down with the idea of victimization. As the narrator shares with us her memories about a past relationship, we discover the small details hidden behind psychological abuse until landing into a major event in the narrator’s life.

This is a slight book, just 93 pages in length, but what is there is impactful. The narrator reassesses her seven year relationship with a man known only as Manfore, the Man Before and confronts a violent assault from years earlier.

There is a concentrated focus on the pair, so much so that the reader feels like an intimate part of their relationship. It is clear that this is a toxic relationship. That is perhaps not as clear to the narrator, or perhaps it is, and she only acknowledges it to herself towards the end. There is controlling behaviour, psychological threats, as Manfore tells her he sleeps with other women, that she is not allowed to stay over, that she is the one who has a violent temper, has mood swings. He threatens, sometimes daily, to kill himself and yet she clings to him as she would a life raft in a storm.

Whilst there may be a scarcity of words in The Memory of the Air, there is not the scarcity of content. The pace is just right, as is the length. This is, after all, a snap shot in time not a memoir of a full life.

The relationship with Manfore, and the ending, lead to a resolution of sorts for the narrator as she faces a traumatic rape that happened before she met him. It is brought to the fore by a throwaway comment from Manfore, made all the more heinous as it was designed to gaslight her and deflect from himself.

The writing is  lyrical and light, despite the darkness of the content it discusses. This is, in part, no doubt gained from the magical veil that always seems to be imparted by translators, from French writing in particular (or so I have found) and from the author’s delicate way of working through the trauma.

A moving, impactful book about the aftermath of trauma.


One Comment Add yours

  1. This sounds so good Janet, I might try and get hold of a copy for Novellas in November!


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