Sunday 6 October 2019

A Memory of Lies by Johnnie Gallop (2019)

Negotiating their way through Stalinist terrors, Nazi slavery and British colonial brutality, Pasha Zayky and his wife, Tanya, tell first-hand how a loving family fight for survival during the hell of the twentieth century.

Readers follow this family from a war-torn Berlin to a forbidding post-war London, with flash-backs to 1930s Soviet Russia along the way, until they arrive in Africa where nationalist forces are challenging British rule. Returning to the glamour and menace of 1960s London, a grandson, Misha, is born and raised by his baboushka Tanya. With Misha taking over as narrator the story ends with a chance meeting in the Russian city of Krasnodar in the early 1990s.

In their struggle, Pasha and Tanya must embrace each prevailing dogma, subtly editing their back-story accordingly, but at the cost of stealing the truth from subsequent generations. We are left to wonder, how many memories are merely lies?

Thanks to the author for kindly contributing the following guest post.

A Memory of Lies – a novel by Johnnie Gallop 2019 

This book is fiction.  But then all history is fiction, isn’t it?  On discovering a hoard of Nazi paperwork in the attic I realised that, just maybe, that the family story had been altered.  Do you really remember? Or do you simply recall the story you have been told?  Is yours a memory of lies?

But this is really a story of family love; a dynastic epic drawn across five decades, from war-torn Europe to emerging Africa, and back.

The tale of the Zayky family begins in in Berlin in January 1945 but flashes back to late 1930s Soviet Russia, and then tracks their journey westward across Europe, to arrive in London in 1946.  The plot moves to Kenya where the family become enmeshed in the Mau Mau emergency.  Returning to London in the early 1960s the next generation is born and moves to Moscow after the fall of communism in the early 1990s.  The wheel turns a full circle and ends with a chance meeting in the Russian city of Krasnodar leaving the reader hungry for the second novel.

Inspired by true events, this is a vast and powerful saga but told with a lightness of touch.  ‘A rattling good story, gripping and vivid’ Caradoc King

As the Zaykys confront enormous moral dilemmas we consider how the instinct to survive blends with love and morality within a family unit. 

We cannot help but feel distaste as the Zaykys collaborate with the enemy, or sell out friends and colleagues to the authorities.  They regard their actions as justified and ultimately for the benefit of their daughter but we will be less certain, particularly given that, at various points, they seem to thrive rather than merely survive.  Nevertheless, our empathy overcomes modern sensibilities and political correctness, to question what we might do under similar circumstances.

In the end we are left to consider how the presentation of history morphs over time in light of whichever is the prevailing dogma.  How many ‘true’ memories are merely lies?

‘A Memory of Lies’ draws influence from Pasternak’s ‘Zhivago’, Archer’s ‘Kane and Abel’, Makine’s ‘A Life’s Music’, and Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’.

Available on Amazon; please give it a try and send in a review.

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