The Memory of Us
By: Camille DiMaio
Publisher: Lake Union
Publication Date: 5/31/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars ++ Top Book of 2016 Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her. While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the Church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.
But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?
A special thank you to Lake Union and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Camille Di Maio’s smashing debut, THE MEMORY OF US is a poignant and timeless epic love story, of love and loss. More sweet than bitter, more triumphant than tragic. A passion both ageless and timeless. Two young adults pressured by family--a course navigated by parents, instead of their own. —From the 1930’s to the 1960s, from Liverpool, to London, The Isle of Man, and beyond. A socialite, forbidden love, the church, to the brutal bombings and WWII—a love so strong,neither time or place can separate. Liverpool, 1920's The Westcott’s, a wealthy family (Newsham Park), of status, an elaborate estate with grounds- a son born with a handicap, they have hidden, stashed away- forgotten in a home, never visiting. A father who works all the time in his business, burying his sorrow in his work. A lonely mother who surrounds herself with people, alcohol, and social events. Their beautiful smart, daughter is their main focus. They have expectations. A daughter forced to turn against her family- they have kept in the dark of her twin brother. A daughter, Julianne who does not care of money and social status. One who chooses love. Her life takes a different course than her parent's set out for her. Julianne Westcott, A Protestant girl born in 1920, pre-war, Liverpool, to a family surrounded by wealth, friends, and socialites. From their elaborate estate, servants, shopping, social events, luxury cars, charities, and society. However, Julianne discovers at a young age, her parents have not been forthcoming about her institutionalized twin brother. She keeps the secret, and begins visiting her brother Charles. In the process, she will soon be headed off to London, to university; choosing a career in nursing. She has many friends, and her mother is always quick to pair her with society’s most eligible. However, Julianne is not like her parents. She has a heart of gold. She is not interested in riches. She is kind and caring. The suitors seem superficial. While visiting her brother, in secret; she meets a handsome gardener, Kyle McCarthy who has taken notice of her brother and spends time with him. He is an Irish Catholic, an immigrant studying to become a priest, having been accepted into seminary. He is influenced by his dying mother and father's long time wishes for his vocation. There would be no future for them other than friendship. Kyle is altruistic, kind, talented (landscape artist), and touches lives of everyone around him. He is caring, hardworking and has a strong love for his father. A million dollar smile and soul to warm hearts. Their friendship grows, and they become connected in many ways. When they both go away to school, they cannot forget the strong attraction to one another--however, neither acts on the growing attraction. Their paths cross once again months later, when returning home from school for break. A true love and forbidden romance begins. Julianne is not interested in any other guys, and Kyle is being pulled from his devotion to the church. His love continues to grow. They will be together, no matter what. Her parents will have no part in their daughter dating or thinking of marrying someone beneath her. Their love is stronger and nothing will stand in their way. Their true happiness is tested time and time again. Then comes war, death, separation from one another. The Hell. Julianne has lost her way. She is now only barely surviving with a loss and burden, so heavy, she can no longer bear.
“Surely this wasn’t the end. To have lived so long in despair. To have found hope and even happiness. Something restored to have one taken away. Was there no place in this world where all could be right, if only for a little while? Was there some great balance that had to be righted by pairing grief and joy. Was it so wrong to hope that happiness could be lived on this side?”
She had become a different person. A simple person, much different than the girl living in luxury next to Newsham Park. Anonymous. Now, to the point of wanting to end her life. She had nothing left. However, at the moment she is about to end her life, fate steps in. She is interrupted-a traveling nurse, a midwife, and called to a home to save a dying mother and baby, as she has done many times. A priest, a little rectory split in two, the countryside, and a homely scarred housekeeper, a safe female attendant for a man living alone.
“Was she given an enormous reprieve from Heaven, a stay of execution? Possibly this was Purgatory? A place to atone for her sins, but always with the knowledge that paradise was waiting one room over. Not the Hell that she deluded herself into. It would take the kind of fatherly God that Kyle believed in to make the reunion take place.”
A seed of hope. A glimpse of light. A life she thought had been destroyed. Memories. Paths chosen. Promises. Vows. War. Death. Despair. Loneliness. Guilt. Choices. Shame. Scarred. Faith tested. Broken. Rediscovery. Redemption. Faith through suffering. God. Joy and Sorrow. A faith for those seeking health and salvation. Had God given Juliette a second chance? A curtain: Salvation or condemnation waited on the other side. From lies, scandal, hurts, pain, scars, and wrongdoings. Seeking of absolution. Penance. Confession. Forgiveness. She recalls her vows of marriage. Their love. THE MEMORY OF US beautifully written, with eloquent prose, infused with spiritual moments and metaphors of life: plants dying, cycles of life in a caterpillar, and the relation to life from Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory concepts--her life had been, as such. From symbolism, heart-breaking letters, repentance and joy. From extraordinary courage, faith, and endurance. For fans of Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook. Throughout the novel, the author explores religious tones and two primary vocations in our faith: priesthood and marriage, and as referenced by DiMaio in an interview, "She considers them to be on equal footing, each modeling a different aspect of the image and likeness of God. We can’t have one without the other. Both involve dedication and calling, and each requires taking a lifelong vow." In the novel, despite, the outside influences; good or bad. Kyle and Julianne are both the subjects of other people making choices for them. (Both families). But, ultimately, they must each discover what it is that they were created for. 5 Stars ++ My Top Historic Fiction, WWII, Best Romance, and Debut of 2016! Camille Di Maio clearly knows how to tug at heartstrings (mine officially stretched). An old-fashioned fiercely romantic and touching tale. Another element of surprise--what blew me away, the author is a Texan. You would never know she was not from London; courageous to tackle; well researched WWII, and beautifully written. My reading experience: I was absolutely glued to this book, and fell in love with Kyle and Julianne! (perfection) The characters remain with you. After finishing, found myself returning the following day to re-read portions of the book, once again. I could not move on to my next book. The lingering . . . Have not cried this hard since the last Nicholas Sparks' movie/book. It will definitely clear your sinuses. Evocative! What a poignant love story. The Memory of Us has "Big Screen" written all over it. Can image the cast of stars. A cross between Colleen McCullough's. The Thorn Birds, Nicholas Spark's love stories (dual timelines), authors, Kate Morton, Lisa Jewell, Jo Jo Moyes, Lisa Jewell, Kristin Hannah, and Susan Örnbratt. What a fabulous weekend holiday read! Readers please watch the Book Trailer (excellent portrayal). I have watched the Book Trailer so many times. Definitely captures the essence of the book and time. Hope an audiobook will follow later, definitely purchasing. Note to reader: When reading, a note of recommendation: Do not be confused with the scattered portions in italics “Abertillery.” If you have to skip over these section, it will all make sense when reaching the 85% mark, as the dual timelines are connected. Referring to a later time. Then you will want to refer back to these sections, when all is revealed. By the time you get to 97%, you will have all your fingernails chewed. From here on out, is explosive. A timeless work of art! Camille Di Maio, You have yourself a winner- What a debut! Let's hope I can snag an early reading copy of Before The Rain, coming May 2017. Don't think I can wait. An author to follow! Inspiration behind the book, and details of her second book: Author Interview PS. I think my all time love of mystery, suspense and thrillers may be shifting towards Historical Fiction. This is like five in a row. Maybe I have found my new genre.
Inspired by the song Eleanor Rigby, "The Memory of Us" is a story in which a Protestant socialite and a Catholic seminarian can no longer resist the love that will bring scandal to their families in the dawn of World War II England, but when a Blitz bombing brings devastation to an underground shelter, choices are forged, lies are created, and decades pass before the truth brings the two lovers face to face with the consequences of their decisions.
“This lovely story, with its aura of sadness, may remind some readers of Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds. Di Maio plays on readers’ heartstrings like a virtuoso, drawing many tears and deep sighs as her story moves from happiness to tragedy and back again. Not only can Di Maio pull readers into the story with her straightforward prose and time-hopping narrative, but she keeps them turning the pages to watch her appealing characters find their true paths. This is a story that lingers long after the satisfying end.” —RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Camille Di Maio has always dreamed of being a writer and has had pieces published in various regional and parenting magazines. When she’s not delaying sleep in favor of reading “just one more chapter” of a great book, she and her husband homeschool their four children and run a real estate office in San Antonio, Texas. Camille also regularly faces her fear of flying to indulge her passion for travel. She is inspired by the concept of “sucking the marrow out of life” and, to that end, trains in tae kwon do, buys too many baked goods at farmers’ markets, and unashamedly belts out Broadway show tunes when the moment strikes. The Memory of Us is her debut novel. Connect on Twitter