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?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The words confuse me, and I cannot breathe. I do not know what is real, what is my imagination. The Latin. The English. The then. The now. The priest. The boy. The voice. They’re the same. They’re the same.
I thought I knew what to expect from this book: our heroine, pining for a man she loved decades ago, and reminiscences of her forbidden lover, who broke her heart when he left her. I was expecting The Memory of Us to be like every other historical fiction novel like it, something like the Titanic, even. But although it had the memories and the secret love, like similar books, it was completely different from any of those other books.
The main difference, for me, was that I liked Julianne. Her family life isn’t the best, but she really doesn’t moan and complain about it, even though her family has a secret that most others don’t have: Julianne has a twin brother she never knew existed, until she found a birth certificate and papers for the Bootle Home in her mother’s things. At birth, her brother Charles was shipped off to Bootle Home because he was both deaf and blind. His family never even visited. But when Julianne found out about him, she began to come to see him, and that changed her life.
The summer before Julianne heads off to nursing school, she goes to visit Charles, like she normally does. Except this time it’s different. Her friend at the home, Miss Ellis, tells her that a young man has been spending time with Charles. His name is Kyle, and he’s a gardener. He brings potted plants so that Charles can have something to take care of.
When Julianne meets Kyle, she is instantly attracted to him; not just for his looks, but also for his kindness towards Charles. He’s also attracted to her, but there’s one thing keeping them apart-he’s studying to become a Catholic priest.
I daydreamed in scattered images where his kisses grazed my skin and the clandestine giggles of girls who read petticoat novellas tucked inside schoolbooks suddenly made sense.
Kyle is a very devout man, and he is determined to not be tempted away from his promise to God. But as they fall more for each other, he has to make a choice: will he stay celibate, or will he walk away from priesthood?
We used a guarded word like care as a substitute for a more authentic one like love, which hovered over the conversation like a dark, thick cloud awaiting the slightest provocation to become a thunderstorm.
Kyle is truly a gentleman. Unfortunately, he is a poor gardener and a Catholic (gasp). Julianne’s rich and Protestant parents don’t approve, and her mother threatens to disown her if Julianne even thinks about being with him. (This was when Julianne was simply nursing his father!)
Julianne’s friends are wonderful, although they rarely talk about anything other than boys. But I’ll let it go, just because of the time period. Lucille was so understanding and nonjudgmental; if I had to listen to Julianne’s pining that often I would pull my hair out. Abigail was hilarious and often crude, but she really cared for Julianne and supported her.
Between the courting and all of the secrets, war is also brewing. Julianne and her friends ignore the news in hopes that the problems will go away. Julianne prays that the British will stay out of the coming war, since Kyle has decided to fight if it comes down to it.
The last quarter of the novel is horrible and bittersweet. At first, I couldn’t believe what had happened, but I realized that Julianne’s decision was probably for the best. The ending made me teary-eyed, but I don’t want to say too much in case I spoil everything. I loved how this book was fast-paced, because in books like this, when you can’t figure out how the main characters life ended up how it is, it gets frustrating when the plot is slow moving.
If you love bittersweet stories, great love interests, and historical fiction, you will certainly love The Memory of Us.
I received this advanced reader copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quotes may not be the same as in the final copy.