The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

This novel has a great premise — that suddenly things start disappearing from the world and people just have to live without them. Those who genetically can’t forget what has been disappeared are rounded up by the memory police and disappeared themselves. So, hats, music boxes, birds, fruit all physically disappear and are forgotten by the people. Our heroine, a novelist, must continue with life even after deciding to take in and hide her editor who is at risk of being disappeared himself. I guess the novel’s strong point is it all works on a an allegorical level, a fable about how we cope with loss. It had me thinking about how blithely we accept the extinction of one species after another and how we accept without much complaint the disappearance of older technologies as newer ones displace them. But that was also the novel’s weak point for me — because it was so whimsical and metaphorical, I was left wanting to know more. How exactly did the memory police work? Who were they answerable to? Why were the disappearances happening? I wanted to see the conspiracy close up, but we were never let near the core of the mystery. Still, definitely worth a read and a ponder.

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No. 1 of 100 books I intend to read and review in 2021.


Patrick Sherriff is an Englishman who survived 13 years working for newspapers in the US, UK and Japan. Between teaching English lessons at his conversation school in Abiko, Japan, with his wife, he writes and illustrates textbooks for non-native speakers of English, releases Hana Walker mystery novels, short stories, essays and a monthly newsletter  highlighting good fiction published in English about Japan. Saku’s Random Book Club is his latest project to spend more time with books.