The Memory Cage is Ruth Eastham’s first novel. It is a touching story revolving around the effect of Alzheimer’s Disease on a family. Alex’s grandfather suffers from the disease and it is getting worse. Alex is adopted and his bond with his grandfather is very close as he is the one who made him feel most at home in England. Alex does not want to lose Grandad and so he covers up for him. Grandad makes Alex promise that he will not let his parents send him to a nursing home. A leaflet on Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that making a scrapbook can help sufferers. Alex clings to the hope that doing this will improve Grandad and that he will be able to keep his promise. But looking at the past upsets Grandad and some things do not add up. There are the strange words of Mr Webb and Grandad’s angry reaction to a figure in an old photograph. On top this there is the locked attic room in the house where no one is allowed to go. Alex is sure that all these things hold the secret to Grandad’s past. Piecing together the history leads to revelations about the Second World War but it also brings up memories of Alex’s past that he wants to forget forever.
The Memory Cage deals with many more issues than Alzheimer’s Disease. It shows the difficulties surrounding adoption in the jealousy of Alex’s adopted brother, Leonard. It also shows Alex’s fear of rejection by his family. He is scared that if his family send his grandfather away they will be capable of sending him away also. It also illustrates the tragic effects of war on people through Grandad’s Alzheimer’s and references to Alex’s past. Alex’s memories of his life in Bosnia before his adoption are repressed by him. It is clear that what happened to him damaged him deeply. The story also touches on how secrets within families can adversely affect the relationships between the people in them. Eastham provides a list of websites at the end of the book that give further information on the topics introduced in it.
I thought that The Memory Cage was an excellent book. I was thoroughly absorbed by it and, though I do not usually cry in books, I could barely read the last chapter through my tears! I would like the thank Scholastic for providing me with a copy of it to review. It is due out in January 2011 and is an excellent read for anyone in the 9+ age group.