Summary and book reviews of Remember Me by Trezza Azzopardi

Remember Me

By Trezza Azzopardi

Remember Me
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2004,
    261 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2005,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

Set in England against the backdrop of World War II, the much anticipated second novel by the Booker Prize finalist and national best-selling author of The Hiding Place is a story of pursuit: of stolen goods, of missing years, and of one woman’s forgotten history

The only debut novel to be short-listed for the Booker Prize in 2001, The Hiding Place became a national bestseller and established Trezza Azzopardi as an international sensation. With her second novel, Remember Me, Azzopardi delivers a harrowing, elegant, and vivid portrait of a lost life at last reclaimed.

Seventy-two-year-old Winnie—homeless and abandoned time and again by those she’s trusted—would say she’s no trouble. She is content to let the days go by, minding her own business, bothering no one. Winnie would rather not recall the past and at her age doesn’t see much point in thinking about the future. But she is catapulted out of her exile when a young girl robs her of her suitcase and her wig—Winnie’s only material possessions. With nothing else to show for her life, these few pieces are irreplaceable to her; she wants them back.

Winnie then embarks on a journey to find the thief, and what begins as a search for stolen belongings becomes the rediscovery of a stolen life. Forced to take stock of how events long buried have brought her to a derelict house on the edge of nowhere, she relives the secrets of a past she had disowned. From her childhood in the 1930s and the upheaval caused by a feuding family, to the dislocation caused by World War II, and finally to the days leading up to her "fall," Winnie recalls a series of revelations and betrayals so disturbing it is no wonder she was driven out of normal society and onto the streets.

As she pieces together the fragments of her life, her once secluded world begins to fill with people—including her devoted father, the haunting figure of her mother, and her domineering grandfather—and Winnie recognizes that she is no longer simply on a hunt for stolen goods. After all these years, she has not escaped from her life at all: she has been circling it, and must now come to terms with it.

Author's Note

Although Winnie is a fictional character set in a fictional Norwich, she was inspired by Nora Bridle, a resident of the streets of Cardiff. I am indebted to everyone who took the trouble to write to me with their memories of Nora.


I’m not infirm, you know: I am my grandfather’s age. That’s not so old. And the girl didn’t frighten me; she just took me by surprise. I don’t know how long I lay there. I only heard her, first. The door at the front of the house was stiff; you had to put all your weight on it, come winter, just to shift it an inch. It groaned if anyone came in. The girl made it groan. It was quiet for a bit, then there was a soft sound, footsteps, someone on the stairs. She came up careful over the broken treads. I wasn’t afraid: there was nothing to steal. There was nothing anyone would want. Mine wasn’t a house with a TV set or a video player, there was no computer, no jewellery in boxes, no money. All it had was ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
  1. How would you describe the voice of the narrator? Does Azzopardi seem to integrate the three or more faces of Winnie with the actual style of writing?

  2. How does wartime serve as a symbolic background for much of the novel? Where do the connections become explicit? Dislocation and deprivation pervade the book. How else is war explored as a metaphor? What is the "war" that affects the narrator the most in her early childhood? How is Mr. Stadnik an emblem for the war?

  3. Thieving is a recurrent act in Remember Me. The narrator steals, and she is stolen from. What are these acts, and what are the consequences? How do they gain in importance as the book unfolds?

  4. Would you consider isolation a central theme of the ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

This is a wonderful, poetic book, one to read slowly so as to gather the full impact of each word and each image. Azzopardi doesn't spell things out, you have to sift through the subtleties. Reading it was like navigating in a fog - clearly there were shapes out there but it was difficult to be sure what they were until one came right up against them and they fell into focus.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Newsday - Dan Cryer

Azzopardi’s forte is a seductive, supple prose that darts from sensuous evocation of people and places to blissful reverie to haunting moments of loneliness. . . .Another sign of a talented wordsmith on the rise.

The Chicago Tribune - Zarena Aslami

Elegant. . . . The simplicity of Azzopardi’s prose progressively corrodes, and other colors and textures sizzle through, resulting in a rich if disturbing narrative. . . . Remember Me draws our attention first to how memory is fashioned and pieced together, and secondly to how our sense of ourselves as a whole hinges upon believing that others carry an image of us with them. The title of the novel then becomes both a command and an appeal.

The New York Times Book Review - Catherine Lockerbie

A mesmerizing meditation on loss itself and the subjectivity of perception. . . . Remember Me is a novel of abandonments and absences. The title is not a shriek of despair or a command it is a quiet plea. . . . [Azzopardi] unrolls the plot with stealth and skill. . . . [The] passages of beauty—and they are many—do not jar because the author has created a complete world for them, fashioned a calm, coherent form of diction to describe them. Throughout Remember Me, Azzopardi maintains a curious and delicate balance between the harshness of Lillian’s half-perceived life and the faint shimmers of hope that wash through it. This is a novel to be remembered.

O, The Oprah Magazine - Cathleen Medwick

Eerily moving. . . . Remember Me is gorgeously written, keenly and sympathetically observed a chiller with a human face.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer - Jean Charbonneau

Azzopardi is an immensely skilled storyteller and her book crackles with intelligence. The reader can feel the passion in her work, and the prose, always elegant yet precise and powerful, is a feast. Moreover, the book’s architecture is superb. . . . Though the story in infinitely sad at times, you never hear violins. [Azzopardi] excels in depicting the life of a homeless person; the fears, the solitude, preoccupations. . . . [Remember Me] should establish Azzopardi as one of the best writers of her generation.

The Miami Herald - Elsbeth Lindner

Written with such unblinking poetic intensity that a story of radiance arises from the bleak pages. . . . [Azzopardi] has written a book that breaks the rules of expectation, a work of remarkable insight, which tunes with perfect pitch into the voice of isolation. . . . Neither a realist nor entirely an impressionist, she writes with a magical, sometimes surreal, often cinematic vision. The book is drenched with color and illuminated by recurrent symbols.

Publishers Weekly

Moving. . . . A harrowing, painful story, saved from melodrama by the unsentimental first-person perspective and a challenging, elliptical narrative. . . . As the pieces of the plot begin to fall into place, [Remember Me] gains sweep and power, building to an unexpected (and unexpectedly horrifying) climax.

Kirkus Reviews

[Azzopardi] makes Winnie’s bleak life compelling by completing the jigsaw of her addled world piece by piece until it makes sense

Library Journal - Eleanor J. Bader

Azzopardi's grim second novel is a poetically wrought, if enigmatic, look at mental illness and homelessness.... both unsettling and poignant... despite depressing, almost creepy overtones, it is highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.

Donna Seaman, Booklist

Starred review. Azzopardi’s prose is spellbinding. Her rendering of a soul unmoored is keenly poignant. The mysterious and involving situations she conjures are fairy-tale-like in their haunting harshness and deep resonance, and her subtle questioning of our notions of identity, family, and the claims of the dead make for a profoundly contemplative read. . . . [Azzopardi] hones both her craft and her insights to create a darkly mystical tale of loss, betrayal, and disconnection.

Time Out London (Book of the week) - Oliver Robinson

Azzopardi’s writing, full of slick and unobtrusive gestures at her narrator’s hidden horrors, possesses a visceral, dream-like quality. . . . Brilliantly conceived and crisply concluded.

Joanna Briscoe, The Guardian (UK)

A remarkable novel. . . . Azzopardi’s treatment of dispossession is so convincing, so empathetic and excruciatingly moving. . . . With Remember Me, she has achieved something powerful and unique; she has given voice to the voiceless, outlining tragedy from one remove, and driving the suffering home with a force and lack of affectation that a more emotional rendition would fail to deliver. This is a courageous enterprise.

The Daily Telegraph (UK) - Helen Brown

Reaching out through the crowd of lies, the novel’s title is like a clutch to the ankle of a passer-by remember me. It is chokingly significant, and central to this extremely powerful book, that Azzopardi can only ask us to remember those we can no longer help or understand.

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Beyond the Book

Trezza Azzopardi was born in Cardiff, Wales, and lives in Norwich, on the East coast of England.  

As a little girl growing up in Cardiff, Trezza would listen to her Gozitan father recount tales and describe the heat haze in Malta.  Her first novel, The Hiding Place, published in 2000, is the story of a Maltese family living in Cardiff during the 1960s. It won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for both the Booker Prize for Fiction and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction). It  has been translated into 14 languages. 

Azzopardi's family are from Gozo, part ...

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