Book Review: The Memory Theater by Karin Tidbeck

Karin Tidbeck has a funny way of tapping into nostalgia—the sense I had as a child. Maybe it is because our cultures have entwined pasts. Sweden once ruled my country, and our stories were transported to them and theirs to us. The Memory Theater is a retelling of my country’s folklore about fairies and stolen children. I grew up with such stories, knowing that if you ventured into the woods following laughter or fairy fires, you would get lost, and there would be no return. Karin Tidbeck plays with that concept, tipping to the side of horror with the destiny of those children. She expands the universe beyond our world, making this cosmic story of how things are.

The book follows Dora and Thistle, best friends, who have been taken to the land of “fairies” who use children for their amusement and eat them when there is no use for them anymore. Dora and Thistle try to survive and get their sense of self back. The story is very simple and more like a flow of writing than a clearly defined structure. It feels like a folk story, as it should. It has that moral element to it. And as it is such, there is this thinness to it—like it is not a fully fleshed-out novel. But I’m not sure if that is a bad thing. This book is meant to be what it is, and it is almost perfectly executed as one. The only trouble is the middle part. It feels so weak and full of patch-ups compared to the strong start. So it is. And so it often is. Combining a story with the strength of all our forefather’s stories into a modern tale with a plot structure isn’t an easy thing to do. I couldn’t do it.

I loved reading this when I got past the first pages and the confusion it brought. I read this on a plane ride to Paris. So it is a fast read. Still, I was left wanting a bit more. I couldn’t quite get away with the hollowness. Yet, if I close my eyes, I can play the entire book from start to finish in my mind, and that is a pretty good thing for a book to do.

Thank you for reading, and have a beautiful day ❤

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