The memory cage
by Ruth Eastham
Author's note (my note)
The table in the work room. One day due to the deadline of handing in the smore. Music Pirates of the Caribbean. My old house.
I tell this story so I do not get in trouble with my English teacher. The only way to get away with it is to write this smore. My past experiences taught me that. You need to do things due time. Keep your schedule clear. And not every student has his or hers schedule clear. Mine was not as clear as most are.
When did I borrow this book?
Two months ago. From the library in my high school.
I was sixteen years and seven months old, and that's the first time I borrowed this book with my schoolmates Pia and Veronika by my side.
That was the way I liked it.
First let us start with the author shall we? Born and brought up in Lancashire, England, Ruth Eastham has also lived and worked in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Italy, teaching creative writing to children and adults. So far she has written four novels which are "Jaguar Trials", "Arrowhead", The Messenger Bird" and the last, but not least "The Memory Cage". She loves photography, second hand shops and world maps, which is also very obviously shown in the book "The Memory Cage". Her works are pretty well known and very popular amongst teenagers across the globe. Currently she is living in an international college with 26 teenagers from 23 different countries just down the corridor. She is also leading a blog on an internet page shown in the lower section. There she explains how to write, tells the readers about her life and work and gives recommendations on different books.
This information is all gathered on the second page of the book The Memory Cage.
The story is about a young thirteen year old boy named Alex who has a troubled past. We find out that Alex is from Bosnia and that his parents adopted him when he was seven years old and was living in a refugee camp, after all of his family members were killed in the war of the former Yugoslavia (1991-1995).
The story starts with him, his parents, his younger sister Sophie, older brother Leonard who is Alex's sworn enemy, his older sister Veronica and grandfather all going to the church fete. Alex and his grandfather first go to grandfather's darkroom to develop some pictures to sell at the fete. There we slowly find out Alex's grandfather has the Alzheimer's disease and it is tearing Alex appart because he is very attached to his grandfather. His grandfather also makes him promise that he will help him not get put into an elderly home. When Alex and his grandfather go to the fete we are also introduced to Alex's bestfriend Ophelia Barker in short Lia who is on a wheelchair. After some time Alex's grandfather goes away and Alex is left alone and confused not knowing where or why had his grandfather stormed away. In all the confusion he ends up in a graveyard and finds a vandalised tombstone with two names on it and some words scratched away. Later that day grandfather returns with a black eye and not wanting to explain how he got it. Some other incidents occur later in the story and Alex's parents decide to put his grandfather in an elderly home by the end of the week. Alex overhears that as he was just about to talk to his father about grandfather and how there is still a possibility of a cure.
That does not stop Alex from trying to help his grandfather uncover his past. He starts searching for his grandmothers grave, but because he cannot find it he asks the vicar Reverend Posselthwaite to help him find the rubbing and consequently the tombstone of his grandmother. He hears rumours about his grandfather fighting in the battle of Dunkirk that happened in the second world war. His Great-Aunt Mildred, who is not actually related to anyone in the family, but helped raised Alex's Dad so she is seen as part of the family also implants a small suspicion that his grandfather killed his own brother Tommie in the battle of Dunkirk, for the sake of marrying Freda, who was Tommie's wife, which he later after Tommie's death did marry. Because of those rumours Alex's father and grandfather have a strained relationship. Alex also finds a key in his grandfather's clock by accident. The key leads to the attic in his house and there he finds his grandmother's bedroom and a diary that leads him to a library where he discovers that his grandmother died in a fire that was caused by Peter Webb. A man that did not like the idea of Alex's grandfather publishing the pictures of Dunkirk, because his brother was also in that battle, but died not long after it, and he thought it was desecrating the memory of him. Later on Alex discovers the truth behind Tommie's death, how his grndfather actually tried to save him, but killed him in the process. He also told him that Tommie asked him to take care of Freda and the baby. He also gets his hands on the only film of negatives that was left of the battle of Dunkirk that his grandfather made. With the help of his best friend Lia he develops the photos and puts them in the scrap book. At the same time his grandfather has one of his fits of confusion and goes paddling with Sophie on an overflowing river thinking he is in the battle of Dunkirk. Alex is warned about this by Leonard and he runs to where they are. Sophie accidentally falls into the water and starts drowning because she cannot swim. Alex despite his fear of water jumps in it to save Sophie. After a long struggle he manages to get them both to the river bank. This incident closed the debate about grandfather's departure to an elderly home.
Alex's family and Lia have one last goodbye picnic at the beach with grandfather. Alex shows the scrapbook to everyone and tells his family the whole truth of grandfather's past. Alex's father Richard and his grandfather have an emotional make up and later on Alex discovers that he found his real second home in his second family. The story ends with Alex opening his box of memories from Bosnia in his room and crying. Finally letting the weigh of his past roll off his shoulders and reconciling with the memories and the things that had happened.
Okay so here it is. The most important thing of all. The climax of the whole smore. The question we have all been waiting for. Did I like the book or not?
I did actually. I mean I would not say it was the best book I have ever read, but it was okay. It is true I could not stay focused reading it for more than twenty five minutes a day, but that was partly my fault. It did have some boring parts or parts that were just really surrealistic, so I could not really take the book seriously. For starters it had too much coincidences. I mean every time something was supposed to happen happened. Like the time Alex went to the graveyard and just found a tombstone that just happened to be the tombstone of his grandmother, or the time he felt so irritated about his grandfather's clock he just accidentally found a key of the attic, or the time he just randomly opened his grandmother's diary and the first sentence was a major clue about grandfather's past. If I were younger I think I would really like this, but it just did not seem plausible to me when I was reading it. Also there are some holes in the story. For example Lia, Alex's best friend, was on a wheelchair, but there is no possible explanation how she had gotten as quick as everybody to the river bank when Alex's grandfather went paddling on the dangerous river and how she moved as quickly as everybody on the bumpy and completely uneven ground. I had to constantly check one of the first sentences of her description where it said she had a wheelchair, because I was not sure at times. I do not mean to sound like a mean person who hates people on wheelchairs, but I think the writer just didn't take it in account sometimes. And there is also the element of things being so obvious that I guessed half the things sixty pages before they were revealed. For a smart boy Alex sure has a long way to go if he wants to be an effective detective. And while we are on the topic of Alex, he just has too much problems. I understand he has PTSD and he feels like a black sheep, but he has as much problems as a man aged forty-five and is entering a middle age crisis. A lot.
Now if we look on the bright side I liked the feelings of the book. I can not explain it, but I was happy when Alex was happy, sad when he was sad and cried when he was crying. I had a really big catharsis when I read the book, and people on the street were just watching me having an emotional breakdown while walking across the pedestrian crossing with my bike in one hand and the book in the other. And because my feelings overweigh the bad things, but not completely I must say the book was OK to me.
EMOTIONS DURING THE BOOK
At happy moments
Feeling happy with an admixture of I don't believe the single word in this book.
At sad moments
Looking out the window and replaying the same sad image of a lonely puppy in my head.
A really accurate depiction of me walking across the street after reading the book.
What is PTSD?
Most people who experience a traumatic event will have reactions that may include shock, anger, nervousness, fear and even guilt. These reactions are common and for most people, they go away over time. For a person with PTSD, however, these feelings continue and even increase, becoming so strong that they keep the person from living a normal life. People with PTSD have symptoms for longer than one month and cannot function as well as before the event occurred.
The symptoms for PTSD are often categorised into three main groups. The first is reliving in which a person with PTSD repeatedly relieves the memories of the trauma. These may include flashbacks, hallucinations and nightmares. They also may feel great distress when certain things remind them of the trauma, such as the anniversary of the event. The next group is avoidance. A person may avoid people, places, thoughts or situations that may remind them of the trauma. This can lead to feelings of detachment and isolation from family and friends, as well as a loss of interest in activities that the person once enjoyed. The third group is increased arousal. It includes excessive emotion, problems with relating to others (including feeling or showing affection), outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating and being easily startled. The person may also suffer from increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension and nausea.
Thursday, Nov. 12th, 2:15pm
72 Tržaška cesta
Do you like seeing people get nervous over trivial things? Do you want to relive your experiences as a teenager? Then you came to the right page! Tommorow on 12th November at exactly 14:15 we, students of Gimnazija Vič in class 2.D, will be having our deadline for the smore handout. We have written different smores and tommorow is the deadline. Come see it if you want to feel like an irresponsible young adult once again!!!