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Book Review: Forgotten by Cat Patrick

forgotten cat patrick Book Review: Forgotten by Cat Patrick

London Lane is the stuff of Hollywood movies: her memory works in a way worthy of Memento. But where Guy Pearces Leonard Shelby can only remember the snatches of time held in his short-term memory, London, with one exception, remembers nothing that has happenedbut rather everything that will'happen. Every night at 4:33, Londons memory resets, in doing so wiping from her mind all that has happened the previous day.

Needless to say, Londons ability to function is severely impaired by her condition, and like Leonard she relies on an intricate system of note-taking. Each night before she goes to sleep, London meticulously notes down everything she will need to get through the following day based on that days memories and her future memories of the coming day: whether to bring her PE outfit, whether shell be quizzed in class, and so on. This system, combined with the support of her mother and her best friend Jamie, who, other than a psychologist who is apparently no longer on the scene, allows London to get by without more than the occasional mishap.

But remembering the future doesnt necessarily mean that London has any agency over it, and when new memories assert themselves, she takes them as canon. Until she meets a boy who she cannot remember seeing in her future. Londons immediate reaction is to avoid him: if hes not present in her future, then why suffer through the song and dance of building a relationship? But the boy, Lucas, is intent on wooing London, and soon enough London finds that she is cautiously pencilling him into her notes.

Theres more, however, to Lucass place in Londons future memories than might initially be conceived, and together the two of them set about unravelling the mystery surrounding Londons only memory of her past: the kidnapping of her brother Jonas.

High-concept novels are prized in the current young adult climate, and Forgotten'fits the mould perfectly: it pairs a quasi-paranormal psychological element that Oliver Sacks would happily leap upon with the sort of unusual narrative of mega-hits such as The Time Travellers Wife. However, although I appreciated the quiet narrative approach of Forgotten, its hard to extricate it from the many similarly themed novels Ive read of late (What Alice Forgot and The Story of Forgetting just to name a few, and the result for me was a novel that didnt quite feel as fresh as I might have liked. And when the gimmick that gives the book its appeal is removed, there is in reality a very slight plot to work with. To be honest, this didnt especially concern me until towards the end of the novel, where the book shifts pace and tone quite dramatically: we move managing Londons daily concerns and general teenage angst to her efforts to solve the mystery of her brothers kidnappingand the reveal is a little hard to believe.

Where the books strengths lie, then, are in its more mainstream elements. Londons close relationship with her mother is beautifully depicted, as is that with her friend Jamie. London remarks at one point in the book that she is astonished by the fact that Jamie is taking a gamble by maintaining a friendship with London given that Jamie cannot see whether London will betray her in future. But London herself is equally reliant on the past actions and good will of both her mother and Jamie: either could betray her by tampering with her notes or misleading her about the past (although who knows, perhaps London may see such a thing coming). Londons notes are a proxy for her memoryreading is remembering, she saysand the fact that she is willing to share these so openly with these two women is quite moving (and perhaps a little naive, as things turn out).

Another of the most striking elements of the novel is around the notion of agency and around wanting to know (or change) what might be conceived of as ones fate. For London, the future seems to be fixed in the same sort of determinate way as the past is to everyone else. For this reason theres a sense of the inexorable about her actions, and a sort of risk-free existence: knowing what is to come, she is able to prepare for it as required. But while London sees this as something to be desired, for Jamie it is confining and short-sighted. When London indicates to Jamie that Jamies affair with a teacher can only end badly, Jamie begs her friend to let her see for herself how things will turn out. She doesnt want to know her future as it may reduce the options open to her now at this point of time.

Of course, Londons changing conception of agency and its role in her existence is key in the development of her relationship with Lucas, and of course in the final act of the book. While the character growth involved in this intrigues, it also results in things becoming all too easily solved, and the quiet sense of loss and confusion Patrick has worked to hard to evoke dwindles away as the novel reaches its conclusion.

Forgotten'is an admirable, ambitious debut, and theres much here to like. Patrick writes frankly and warmly, and theres an honesty here that encourages instant rapport. The characters are beautifully drawn and superbly ambiguous, but like a time travel narrative the conceit of future memory had me picking out loopholes and inconsistencies, and I found myself assessing'the book rather than reading it. The ending, too, feels somewhat pat and weak, dragging down an otherwise excellent read.

Rating: star Book Review: Forgotten by Cat Patrickstar Book Review: Forgotten by Cat Patrickstar Book Review: Forgotten by Cat Patrickhalfstar Book Review: Forgotten by Cat Patrickblankstar Book Review: Forgotten by Cat Patrick (very good)

With thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont for the review copy

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Your turn: whats your take on books that involve amnesia or unusual types of recollection?


  1. darreads /

    Despite its flaws this does sound like a fantastic book. I really enjoyed What Alice Forgot. I like these types of books having to do with memory. I think Ill have to check this one out further. Thanks for the great review!

    • @darreads Thanks for stopping by! Its definitely worth checking out, if not for the memory element, then for the relationships involved. Ill be doing a giveaway of this one soon, so stay tuned. :)

  2. Bookish_Belle /

    Wonderful review. Im intrigued about this book, the concept is really interesting (and a little confusing) to me so Id like to see how it works. Its a shame the ending was a let down for you, but I love when books have strong characters and great non-romantic relationships (plus romantic relationships, too, of course!)

    • @Bookish_Belle Thanks for visiting, Belle! It is a great concept (but like time travel, dont try to think too hard about it!), and I love that the best friend and mother relationships are so strong. The romance is nicely done, tooLucas is a nice guy rather than a brooding moody chap, and his efforts to woo London are realistically lame (but cute!) :)

  3. Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out /

    I think having read What Alice Forgot and Turn of Mind just before Forgotten took the shine off this title for me. I quite liked the concept though

    • @Shelleyrae @ Bookd Out I think Im the same, Shellyrae. Memory is such an intriguing concept, though, so I suppose its not so odd that its being so heavily worked! It may also be that its an effective way of introducing a psuedo-speculative element to the novel without necessarily making something a fantasy novel. I really like the characters in this, though. Theyre quite memorableI read this months ago now (I, er, forgot to post my reviewshouldve written a note) and theyre still fresh in my mind.