Sunday, 1 February 2009

The memory-keeper's daughter (Kim Edwards)

I liked that this book never made me cry, never made me want to cry, especially since the last book I read was The time traveler's wife.

One thing I enjoyed about this book was the entire absence of gratuitous sex scenes. Sex scenes just get old, and they're often not really relevant; in The time traveler's wife there were so many sex scenes, all over the place, I got entirely sick of the whole thing.

But The memory-keeper's daughter was a good book, which kept me reading and wanting to find out what happened next. It was too long — I got pretty annoyed because, as in so many sitcoms, the only real tension was miscommunication, which could have been solved so easily by one quick sentence: "By the way, our daughter never died — she had Down syndrome and I gave her to our nurse who's raising her as her own daughter." Okay, maybe not an easy sentence to say; but a book where the main tension revolves around one easily-resolved lie gets pretty frustrating.

The storyline of the nurse and Phoebe (the girl with Down syndrome) was much more interesting, and I wished the author had gone into it a bit more. Phoebe was born in the late 1960s in the States, a time when Down syndrome children were called "mongoloid"; were excluded from public schools and thought better off dead. The nurse had to fight to get Phoebe a place in the schools; it's a fight I wish the author had delved more into, since it was a historical fight, something that really happened.

I have very limited experience of Down syndrome children myself, but I hadn't realised how capable they can be. I guess there's still a lot of prejudice against them, and of course ignorance breeds prejudice.

According to wikipedia, about 92% of pregnancies in the States, where Down syndrome is discovered, are terminated. That's an awful statistic.

An interesting read, and one that interested me more in the development and discussion of Down syndrome, the potential capabilities and the historical attitude against Down's children, than in the plot itself. But I did enjoy the plot, even if the characters were all a little angsty for my taste; not precisely a light-hearted read, but a thought-provoking one, and thankfully not a tear-jerker.

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