The Memories We Bury is an emotionally charged and captivating novel about the complexities of female friendship and motherhood.
Lizzie Thomson has landed her first job as a music teacher. After a whirlwind romance with Markus, the newlywed couple moves into a beautiful new home on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Lizzie quickly befriends their neighbor Morag, an elderly, resourceful yet lonely widow, who’s own children rarely visit her. Everything seems perfect in Lizzie’s life until she finds out she is pregnant. To add to this, her relationship with both Morag and Markus changes beyond her control.
Can Lizzie really trust Morag and why is Markus keeping secrets from her?
In The Memories We Bury the author explores the dangerous bonds we can create with strangers. The book also shows how past memories can cast long shadows over the present.
Helene Andrea Leuschel gained a Master in Journalism & Communication. This led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She later acquired a Master in Philosophy, specializing in the study of the mind. Helene has a particular interest in emotional, and psychological, and social well-being. This led her to write her first novel, Manipulated Lives. It’s a fictional collection of five novellas, each highlighting the dangers of interacting with narcissists. She lives with her husband and two children in Portugal.
The Memories We Bury Initial Thoughts
I want to share my first impressions because I’m lucky enough to give you a little excerpt from the book! Isn’t that exciting? Okay, my thoughts. I really enjoyed the first chapter because I felt like I was inside of Lizzie’s head. She sounds like she is sporadic and intelligent, and looking for closure. I am also a lover of amazing first liners in a book. As you will see soon, I thought the book was very captivating from the get. Okay, enough about my thoughts, I want to hear yours. So, here is the excerpt from the first chapter of The Memories We Bury. The excerpt is from the point of view of Lizzie (well, actually its the whole first chapter):
I am standing on shaking legs, my arms wrapped around my chest, shivers running down my spine. I do not know where I am, what I am doing standing alone by a dark lake. I feel a desperate fear that threatens to leave me helpless, aimless and without memory of what has happened. I look around me, another shudder coursing through my thin body. I stare down at my naked feet, now sinking into the mud, my attempt to escape the thick slick earth increasing my dread that no one can hear my desperate scream for help.
I sit up with a heavy gasp, my nightdress moist with fear, triggered by a nightmare in which a hooded giant, his steps vibrating under my feet, had chased me. Just as I was about to hide behind a bush close to a lake, a rough hand grabbed my head, pulling at my long hair, then lifted me off the floor like Jane in King Kong before dropping me into the still grey water and pushing me under the dark surface.
Nightmares are the remnants of confusing, unsettling years, although I am getting better at shaking off the anxiety that triggers those dark images of losing control.
‘Calm down, Lizzie. Deep breaths,’ I whisper to myself, relieved to hear that I’ve not woken my young son. Now, get up, lazybones. This is your special day… let nothing or no one spoil it. I admonish myself, smile, and within minutes stand under a hot shower, washing away the last remnants of my dream and, with it, the debilitating impression of never being enough. It’s a curious statement at the best of times.
How can anyone ever declare to a fellow human that they are not enough for them, not doing enough, not talented, pretty or strong enough? I grew up with this feeling of not being enough. For a long time, I even imagined that it was fine, that it was normal, and that all the other children in my school experienced the same insecurities, the constant urge to thrive, to better themselves. We were malleable and flawed little beings and the adults were perfect, knew everything there was to know and had an answer to every question.
It’s embarrassing how naive I was, because it only dawned on me later that things were different for most of my classmates. The realisation made me feel hollow at first, but I felt hope a year later when I started to shine at something. During my final year at primary school my teacher had discovered a musical prodigy she said, and I kidded myself that I had reached the end of the road, that all my efforts had paid off at last. Relief coursed through my veins at the astonishing sight of my mother’s sudden admiration for me. At last her daughter had a talent she could boast about at the school gates. Her enthusiasm gave me hope for a few years and it was exhilarating to find a purpose that gave me a sense of worth, and with or without the approval of my mother, music became my haven.
I smile now thinking about those years gone by – the years during which I could cement a small layer of confidence and direction into my life. They gave me the opportunity to see that if I set my mind to it and worked hard, I would reach and touch happiness. However only few people valued me for who I was, no matter whether or not I could play Mozart. My grandad was the first to do so, followed by my father, my first music teacher and then, much later, Juanita and Cathy, two fellow students I met at university.
As for my relationship with my mother, it was a tiring and confusing journey. There was always something at odds. A good example are my school photographs. Either it was a strand of hair standing up, a hair clip squint, my expression too stern or my smile tainted by braces. The palms of my hands would always be sticky, my fingers trembling when holding up the envelope containing yet another faulty set of photos to my expectant mother.
Each time I hoped that at least once she would see what my teacher had called ‘a pretty smile’, ‘sparkling eyes’, or my ‘lovely hair’ because I never gave up trying to please her. Every single year when the school photo day had been announced, I vowed to plan every detail so the session would, at last, prove to be a success. My uniform was carefully ironed, the tie knotted with extra care, the hair washed the night before, and I’d practise my smile and posture in front of the mirror for ages, rehearsing it until my cheeks hurt and I feared my face would freeze in an eternal grin.
My father and grandfather always gave me a gentle, imperceptible nudge, which I knew was their attempt to make up for my mother’s constant criticism that they could not oppose. I believe now that she had an invisible power over all of us. That power held us by unseen strings which made us lower our eyes, go mute, or weaken any resolve or resistance we may have had. Only the sound of music could override it. I’d only have to follow its thread, let it fill me up, and I’d note that intense emotions would dissolve like ice cubes in a glass of water, still there but nowhere to hold on to, diluted to small particles.
Once a melody had penetrated my every cell, it would make my hand reach out to a flat surface to tap the rhythm, my toes moving up and down as the notes drifted through the air, passing through my ears and my skin and continuing to vibrate through my body. In my head, it was like there was no room for anything else but sounds coming together as melodies, harmonies and rhythms. I couldn’t extricate myself from the notes, or compress them, so that there would be room for reality. Avid readers escape in a book, whilst I get lost in music, a private and safe place to be, which later would connect me to people who thought there was meaning and beauty in a musical phrase.
A classmate once teased me with the comment, ‘Oh, guys, here we go again, Lizzie’s on Pluto,’ referring to the fact that my eyes would glaze over, disconnected from a group activity. He was right in his assumption. I wasn’t aware of my body nor my surroundings, my senses focused on a musical journey in my head.
‘Right, enough daydreaming for today, Lizzie,’ I say.
I can sense a draught tickling the back of my neck like cold fingers touching my skin as I stand in front of my clothes rack. I shiver and traipse to the window to close it, and am startled by the sudden stomach-churning noise of a car horn being peeped outside. My sensitivity to sound is exhausting and I sigh, irritated by the obvious impatience someone on a road nearby can share with people as far away as me, standing a few floors up in a modern apartment building in Glasgow.
Once dressed, I walk into Jamie’s bedroom and smile at the sight of his small body balled up and hugging his teddy, seeking warmth after he must have thrown his covers off the bed during the night. I gently place the cover over his legs and upper body again, then walk into the kitchen to make myself a much-needed cup of English Breakfast tea.
Birthdays make me reminisce about the past… today pulling me back to events from just a few years ago. I’ll never forget what I could have lost. The harder I try to bury part of my memories, the fiercer is the tremble they create below the surface when I as much as take a glimpse into their direction. However, once out in the open, they become as ineffectual as a breeze that does nothing more than lift the fine wisps of hair at the back of my neck. I now know how to shut out their threat. You can throw back up a bad meal, briefly feeling hollow and weak, but know it is over, done and soon forgotten.
I recall a scene as if it was yesterday. Why is it I seem to remember events that hurt me better than experiences I’d rather hold on to because they made me happy? There must be some logic to it; I just haven’t worked it out yet.
‘Lizzie, have you done your homework?’ My mum’s voice bellowed from the living room across to the kitchen table where a few moments before I was bent over my schoolbooks, reading and writing. My heart started to thump, as I crouched next to the table, packing the books away in my school bag for the following day.
‘Yes, Mummy. I’m done.’
‘You could have said, Lizzie,’ my mum shouted back, the remote control I knew to be in her hand directed at the TV screen, because she suddenly cut the sound off. She controlled the TV as she controlled everything in our lives – that is my dad’s, my grandad’s and mine. We lived under constant threat of insult and when I’d been doing my homework at the kitchen table, it was no different. My mother had tutted about me needing longer and longer to finish up my work since joining secondary school, impatient to claim the kitchen table for dinner. ‘I wonder whether you are slow, Lizzie. You take ages to finish your work.’
My bedroom was too small to fit in more than a single bed and a slim shelf rack where I kept my precious collection of trinkets, books and mementos. My clothes hung off a metal movable rail, that in my mind I transformed into a tool to whisk off fancy outfits for a catwalk fashion show. If there hadn’t been the row of carton boxes underneath, containing my underwear, socks and stockings, my imagination could almost have fooled me. My few belongings turned into pieces of clothing that were dazzling and colorful in my mind’s eye. At other times, I imagined travelling to faraway places or a different home.
‘I’m finished, Mummy. Look… I’m getting all my books together, so we can set the table.’
‘You can set the table,’ she said, her voice snappy and cold.
‘Okay,’ I whispered, drawing a breath, relieved that no more comments followed.
No matter how hard I tried as a young girl to please my mum, it was only the sudden discovery of my musical prowess that relaxed her pursed lips and gaze of constant disappointment.
Until my talents became a subject of discussion, the four of us would eat and chat at dinner times. Well, to be exact, my mother could talk and my dad and grandad listened and nodded whilst I concentrated on finishing every morsel of food on my plate, to avoid my mother reproaching me for being wasteful or ungrateful. Eventually, my grandad would always lean over to me and pat my head and ask how my day at school had gone. I remember one exchange from my childhood, when I beamed back at my grandad and replied, ‘I had a great day. We played with the skipping rope – so fun.’ I always loved how he took an interest in me. He smiled back. Next, I lifted my eyes to my mum only to stare into coldness.
I shiver at the memory now, and at the sense of the loss I suffered – and still feel – on the day she brought me the news about my grandad’s passing. For the first time in my eleven years of life, I let go and howled, cried until my pillow was soaking wet, the sharp pain in my chest only easing months later when I realised that visiting his grave started to offer me solace, and opportunities to chat to him and imagine his answers. I promised him I’d do my best to carry on and make him proud. Nothing ever ripped me apart in the same way as losing my grandad. Setbacks in life would only remind me of how much I yearned to return to that world where I had a person by my side who cared about me, and never spoke intending to hurt me.
‘Why do we send you to school? You can’t even make proper sentences – SO FUN.’ The last two words my mother spat out, belittling my childish innocence.
‘Mags, don’t be so harsh. She’s eleven for crying out loud.’ My dad shot the words into my mum’s direction, angry and frustrated, causing my grandad’s thick eyebrows to lift with surprise. ‘Why can’t we have a nice, friendly conversation for once?’ I recall this one incident because it was so rare that he stood up for me. She’d gone three days not addressing a word to him thereafter, the silent treatment we all dreaded the most.
Thanks, Dad, I’d say in my head, but understood that, despite his attempt to ease the problematic relationship between my mum and I, I’d pay for it later – when I least expected it. A conflict always resulted in my heart racing in my chest, and tears rising to my eyes at the mere prospect of another tirade. I would brush the tears aside with the back of my hand and swallow as hard as I could to suppress the realisation that I did not know how to avoid the impasse.
By the time my mother would start talking to me again, my own words had dried up in my throat because until the ceasefire she’d given me no choice but to listen to what a pain I’d been, a heavy burden, a slow learner, clumsy and noisy, so odd that she even believed sometimes that I wasn’t hers. My body was heavy afterwards, my feet eager to make no sound when I’d disappear into my room, closing the door, and get ready for bed while my eyes brimmed with hurt and hot tears streaked my cheeks.
Many of her words stayed buried deep in my heart, forming the memories that would provide me with the brittle foundation of my past and would follow me through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood.
I’m aware that I’m painting a bleak picture of my mother. She was not always the harsh, unhappy and bitter woman. I remember her hand holding mine when I was feverish, her hard silhouette becoming what I could only dream of when I was healthy and not bedbound – a gentle and almost affectionate person, a softened variety of her former self. It was as if my helplessness and the danger of losing me to some viral infection or childhood disease awoke locked up maternal instincts in her.
I can still hear her soothing voice, her insistence that I should drink a little sip of water, or try and sit up for the chicken soup she’d prepared for me. There were times she would half carry me to the bathroom to undress me and settle me into the lukewarm water she’d run for me. I believed she loved me in those moments, able to convey the affection that she could not show as soon as my recovery was certain again. Those moments are all attached to a line of memories in my mind, like a string where pieces of clothing of various sizes hang side by side in a messy line. Some are blown away by the wind, irretrievable and lost, yet others, like these moments of intimate gentle care, etched into my brain forever.
My father would attempt to reassure me she was a difficult woman, but deep down vulnerable and loyal. It was his excuse for saying, ‘I couldn’t stand my ground nor protect you, Lizzie, I’m sorry.’ Later his words would be more cutting. He said that my grandad had depended on his and my mum’s kindness to allow him to stay with us. Dependency can make you helpless, he’d added.
It’s impossible to remember all of one’s past and thank goodness for that. Nor can anyone conjure up the exact details of any one exchange with another person, even if it appears crystal clear in the mind’s eye. Still, I believe that certain memories can be as vivid and real as the reflection in a polished spoon because you’ve never dared to tell anyone. They reflect an image as sharp as a photograph.
With all that said, let me begin and tell you how I ended up in my little apartment in Glasgow, teaching the piano and looking after my nearly three years old son, Jamie.
I’m thirty today. I toiled over two different cake mixtures yesterday, one vanilla flavoured, the other mixed in with chocolate and nuts, and baked two separate layers. When they had cooled, I prepared the buttercream I smoothed between them, and covered the cake in chocolate icing. I’d licked one finger and lifted a small spoon for Jamie out of the bowl to let him try.
‘Is yummy.’ His approval made me wink and smile, as did his two reddened cheeks, that showed he’d been concentrating hard on finishing one of many colourful paintings to celebrate my birthday. Twelve of them were already adorning the wall in the kitchen, ensuring that no matter how driech the weather was, my day would always start with looking at an explosion of colours.
My eyes settle on a postcard picturing Arthur’s Seat, stuck to the fridge by a small magnet. Edinburgh’s eminent hill with its bird’s eye view over the city nestled below me whenever I scrambled up to the top, the wind whistling through my bones, stirred my homesickness for the beautiful town where I grew up. A pinch jolted through my chest at the memory of my grandad’s big dry hand which would hold mine to keep me from slipping on the wet grass. ‘Keep going, wee lassie, I’ve got you,’ he’d say. I smile at the thought, and am resolved to take Jamie to Edinburgh again soon. As if awakened by telepathy, I hear Jamie’s call from the bedroom.
You want to read more, don’t you? Oh come on, appease me, and say you do! For the sake of keeping this blog tour post from going on too long, I will keep my review short. I will tell you only a couple of things I liked and disliked from this book. Then, I will give you my star rating!
What I liked:
- The chapters switch back and forth between Lizzie and Morag. Seeing different points of view is something I like. This is because I feel like I get to know two characters as if they were both the main character
- I was hooked from the first chapter. I really liked Lizzie from the beginning and that continued all the way through
- As I read, I felt like the author, H.A. Leuschel really understood complex mentalities like anxiety and having a sense of longing
What I disliked:
- Out of personal preference I would have liked to see the point of view of Markus (Lizzie’s husband)
- There are dates at the beginning of each chapter which I liked. But, it still took me a minute to get into the swing of where I was at in the story.
I’m keeping this review a little short due to how long it is already. But, I hope I have given you enough to get a sense of what The Memories We Bury is like. It’s a heavy read (and not because of the length of the book). So, this is not the book for someone who is looking for a feel-good story. Nonetheless, I quite enjoyed it so I am giving it 4/5 stars.
Lucky for you the book is on sale through this book tour and even 2 days after! You could also try to win a digital version of the book through the giveaway!a Rafflecopter giveaway
You can also learn more about the author by checking out her website and following her on her social media:
Let’s Talk About It!
I know I normally ask you a billion questions in this section of my posts. But, I am only going to ask you one this time. What were your thoughts on the first chapter? I’m really curious to see if your thoughts were in line with mine or if they were totally different. Let me know in the comments below!
This blog tour for The Memories We Bury was organized by R&R Book Tours. Here is the schedule for the book tour. Check out all those other book blogs!
Blog Tour Schedule
Cocktails & Fairytales (Spotlight) https://www.facebook.com/CocktailsFairytales
The Purple Shelf Club (Review) https://www.purpleshelfclub.com/
Rajiv’s Reviews (Review) https://www.rajivsreviews.com/
Jessica Belmont (Spotlight) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/
Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com
The Faerie Review (Spotlight) http://www.thefaeriereview.com
Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com
Libroum in Sepiternum (Review) http://libroruminsempiternumhome.wordpress.com
Meli’s Book Reviews (Review) https://melisbokreviews.wordpress.com/
My Comic Relief (Review) https://mycomicrelief.wordpress.com/
Stine Writing (Review) https://christinebialczak.com/
Rambling Mads (Spotlight) http://ramblingmads.com
Dark Whimsical Art (Spotlight) https://www.darkwhimsicalart.com
52 Weeks with Books (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/52weekswithbooks/
Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com
Book Reviews by Satabdi (Review) http://satabdimukherjee.wordpress.com
Tranquil Dreams (Review) https://klling.wordpress.com/
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