Book Review: The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave

The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave
Publisher: Quercus
Release Date: 22nd February 2018

True death is a thing of the past. Now you can spend the rest of eternity re-living your happiest memories: that first kiss, falling in love, the birth of your children, enjoyed on loop for ever and ever.
Isobel is a Heaven Architect, and she helps dying people create afterlives from these memories. So when she falls for Jarek, one of her terminal - and married - clients, she knows that while she cannot save him, she can create the most beautiful of heavens, just for him.
But when Jarek's wife is found dead, Isobel uncovers a darker side of the world she works within, and she can trust no one with what she finds...

Meet Isobel. She spends her days working as a Heaven Architect for Oakley Associates and helps her clients arrange their own versions of heaven and deciphers the things, memories and people that they want included in their afterlife. Isobel's clients are usually terminally ill or people who know that death is imminent, but with the current threat of war hanging over the country, some of Isobel's clients now include service men and women who will be out on the frontline.
Isobel is good at what she does - one of the best Heaven Architect's out there...But the arrival of one client looks set to turn her whole world upside down.
Jarek has a brain tumour and he seeks Isobel's help with the creating of his afterlife, but it's clear right from the off that there is something between the two of them.
Isobel tries to remain professional...Not only is Jarek one of her clients but he is also a married man. But it becomes apparent the connection between the two of them is too strong, and despite knowing that Jarek doesn't have that long to live, Isobel puts everything on the line for him.
However when Isobel learns that Jarek's wife has been murdered, things look set to take a very interesting turn.
In a bid to prove Jarek's innocence Isobel is forced to access Jarek's heaven in the hope that there are what is known as 'ghost memories' - things which Jarek may have thought about - present in his afterlife. This will determine whether Jarek could have been responsible for his wife, Sarah's, death. Naturally, this is not as simple as it sounds and it involves Isobel visiting her own heaven and effectively being placed into a coma in order to gain access to these thoughts. A dangerous enough procedure in itself, nothing could prepare Isobel for what is waiting for her on the other side...

When I first read the synopsis for The Memory Chamber I was instantly grabbed by the whole concept and was struck by how different this novel sounded to the usual style of books that I read. This can only be a good thing, after all it's always good to mix things up a bit, therefore I was massively excited to get stuck in to what promised to be a thought-provoking and unusual story...and The Memory Chamber certainly didn't disappoint.

It took me a while to get my head around the whole concept to begin with (but that may be because it's not the type of genre I am necessarily used to reading) but once I did get to grips with the storyline I was addicted and really struggled to put this story down. The scientific side of things sounded perfectly plausible to me and the more I learnt about the idea of creating your own vision of heaven, the more I found this concept to be absolutely fascinating. The mechanics of how the whole set-up worked were explained with sufficient depth and detail that I found the whole process entirely believable. Part of me was concerned that it would be just a little too futuristic for my brain, but I quickly got on board with the whole idea and absolutely loved it.
The novel really kicked up a gear for me with the discovery of the death of Jarek's wife, Sarah. The thriller side to the novel really started to shine through and as with any good mystery novel,  I was desperate to find out more about the circumstances behind what had happened.

The other thing about The Memory Chamber which I perhaps was not expecting was just how much it touched me. When Isobel visits her heaven for the first time I felt it was a really poignant moment and it got me thinking about if I were to create a heaven of my own...who would be there and which memories I would choose to re-experience.
It also really brought me up short when Isobel was creating heavens for her clients, particularly those who were joining the Forces. To have to come to terms with basically staring death in the face and planning for it, must be so heartbreaking, especially when some of these clients were so young. It made me feel quite melancholy at times and Holly Cave wrote those parts so beautifully and with such sensitivity. However, you are unable to dwell on these moments for too long, as the story is so fast-paced, you're immediately then thinking about something else.
There is so much I want to say about the ending, but I'm worried about giving too much away. One thing I will say is that it is BLOOMING AMAZING. You'll know what you mean when you get there. Just...Wow.

As for Holly Cave's writing - OHMYGOSH. Where has this fabulous author come from? I can't believe this is her debut, it is sophisticated, assured and so well written.
The way in which she played out the relationship between Isobel and Jared was fantastic. I really believed their feelings for one another and I felt the pain every bit as much as she did when she lost Jared. Holly's writing was so powerful and all encompassing, I absolutely loved it and I loved the feelings that she provoked in me through her storytelling. As someone who hasn't really read any sci-fi, Holly not only made me genuinely believe in what was happening, but I also loved every minute of the story. Although saying that I wouldn't pigeon-hole this novel into the sci-fi genre as it offers up so much more - it's part thriller, part romance too and definitely a novel I would class as 'multi-genre'. It offers something for everyone and that is one of my favourite things about The Memory Chamber. It was so different from my normal read and I think I surprised myself with just how much I loved it. It's fresh, thought-provoking and offers up something just that little bit different.
It's a novel I'm still thinking about now, days after reading it and I love books like that. Dark, all-encompassing and a hugely addictive read, The Memory Chamber is a smashing debut.

I also need to mention the fantastic publicity campaign that Quercus set up around this novel. I received a card with a selection of memories from the Quercus Team and also a questionnaire which I will fill out and answer over on my instagram (@bookaholicholly if you want to check that out...) 

I cannot wait for more from Holly Cave, hopefully in the very near future...



A huge thank you to Quercus for the opportunity to review The Memory Chamber as part of the blog tour.

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