The Woman Who Can’t Forget – Book Review.

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A friend lent me this book well over a year ago, and I thought it was time to read and return it. I actually started it about six months ago but sadly it underwhelmed me, so I left it for months, but I managed to finish it last week.

I was interested to read it as I have always considered myself to have a pretty good memory and am fascinated by anything to do with the brain. I can recall things that most people can’t including credit card numbers, medicare numbers, licence plates and dates and I never used the memory function in any of my phones until text messaging became commonplace, and it was simply more convenient to have the names there rather than type them. I was also everyone’s phone book. I also used to be most people’s google as well. I actually can talk backwards fluently if you say a sentence to me, as I can “see” the words in my mind when I say them.

Both of my sons have incredible memories which was helpful in school and great for work as well. One time, when my youngest son was in Grade 5, he was the only student to get an A on a maths test, in fact he got 100 percent. When he came home I congratulated him and he was very embarrassed to tell me “mum – I cheated!”. I thought that it was very out of character for him, so I asked him to explain. “I could see the answers in my head”, bless him he thought that was cheating. I explained that it was a gift, definitely not cheating and he eventually understood.

So, back to the book. It was pleasant enough, but no literary masterpiece. There was a lot of repetition and no earth shattering conclusions. It was interesting to see inside the mind of somebody who can literally recall every single thing that has occurred in her life and in history since the age of about 11. I can’t imagine what that might be like to live with. As we all know over time memories fade and that can be helpful in some instances, and it’s often what the mind needs, but the pain of dreadful memories never fades for her. She recalls traumatic experiences and situations vividly, including the accompanying emotions and feels them as if they were occurring in the present. She finds change very difficult and lived at home with her parents until a late age as the idea of leaving the family home was overwhelming for her.

One thing that is very unusual about the way Jill manages her memories is her compulsion to keep large volumes of memorabilia, personal effects and has the peculiar need to record every day of her life. At various times she has gone for extended periods without recording events, but eventually it gets too much for her and she goes back and spends days writing, catching up on sometimes a year at once, following which she feels an enormous sense of relief.

Jill’s memory has been studied extensively by scientists and as per the byline of the book she has been found to have one of the most remarkable memories known to science. One thing that excites her the most is the potential to one day help with treatments and preventions for conditions such as Alzheimers.

All in all it was a pleasant enough book, but one I am happy to return without feeling the need to buy my own copy.

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