Genre: Historical FIction, Adventure
Type: NetGalley Advanced Reading Copy
First Published: August 21, 2012
Publisher: Ballantine Books
First Line: "At the far end of the apartment, a row of shutters opened onto a balcony overlooking the swayback oofs of Shanghai."
Synopsis: Set in the 1920's 'The Map of Lost Memories' focuses on Irene Blum, a museum assistant in Seattle, Washington who feels angry and unappreciated at not being recognized for her contributions at work. Irene is determined to prove to her male peers that they made a mistake passing her over for a promotion. In order to do so, she needs to make a rare archaelogical discovery and bring fame to their small museum.
When her mentor, Henry Simms, provides Irene with rare maps and offers to bankroll an expedition to Cambodia to find the lost copper scrolls of the Khmer dynasty in Cambodia, Irene knows she has found a way to make her museum take notice of her skill.
The Khmer people were famous for building the stunning Angkor Wat temple set deep in the jungles of Cambodia and these lost scrolls are said to document how and why this civilization suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. Irene is determined to find the scrolls before Mr Simms succombs from the cancer that is ravaging his body so that they can share in the acclaim as well as their love of Cambodia.
Irene arrives in Indochina and begins to build a team of people to accompany her. Simone, the Communist temple robber/drug addict who knows her way around the jungles of Cambodia and Marc, the secretive night club owner who has the connections Irene will need to begin her quest. Unfortunately she soon realizes that each of the people in her team have their own agendas for finding the lost scrolls.
My Thoughts: It is evident that Ms Fay has a love of Cambodia and has made it the star of this book. There are beautiful descriptions of the scenery, the people and the culture. What initially drew me to this book was the book's description which made it sound like an Indiana Jones-type adventure read. I figured I'd learn more about a culture I know little about and be entertained by a race to find archealogical relics deep in the Cambodian jungles. I did learn more about Cambodia but unfortunately, there was a lot less adventure than I was hoping for. I wasn't expecting giant rolling boulders chasing down a whip wielding Irene per se but I was expecting more adventure than I got.
I think part of the issue is that a large part of the book was used to show how Irene puts her group together in Indochina. Their actual time scouring the jungles is relegated to the end of the book which went against my initial assumptions. I wanted her to jump into the jungle and get going pretty much from the get go. It felt like we were stuck in Shanghai for much too long and since the action was all towards the end of the book I felt that the book's pace lagged for me.
Finally, I found the numerous serendipitous connections between the characters (past and present) forced, convenient and too unlikely to actually happen. Everyone seemed to be connected and it came off as unbelievable.
This was the first book by this author and I will say that I was very impressed with her writing style. Unfortunately this book never truly drew me in except to provide me with truly vivid descriptions of the beauty of Cambodia, its culture and history.
My Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Note: My sincere thanks to Ms Fay and Ballantine Books for providing me with this complimentary Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.