Book Review | The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Title: The Memory Police

Author: Yoko Ogawa

Publisher: Random House UK | Vintage Publishing

Release Date: 15th August 2019

Source: NetGalley

Buy: Amazon UK
Hat, ribbon, bird, rose. To the people on the island, a disappeared thing no longer has any meaning. It can be burned in the garden, thrown in the river or handed over to the Memory Police. Soon enough, the island forgets it ever existed.

When a young novelist discovers that her editor is in danger of being taken away by the Memory Police, she desperately wants to save him. For some reason, he doesn’t forget, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for him to hide his memories. Who knows what will vanish next?

The Memory Police is a beautiful, haunting and provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss, from one of Japan’s greatest writers.

'One of Japan’s most acclaimed authors explores truth, state surveillance and individual autonomy. Echoes 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and 100 Years of Solitude, but it has a voice and power all its own' Time Magazine

With comparisons to 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, The Memory Police has a lot to live up to.  I went in to this book with very high hopes.

On a unnamed island, the population go about their lives, they work, they play, they love, everything is normal apart from the fact the island is governed by The Memory Police.  They maintain the disappearance of items, you see on this island an item you could be using one day could be “disappeared” the next.  Gone, just like that.

The perfume you wore, the sweets you ate, all of a sudden they are vanquished to the past and the worst thing is nobody remembers them, they are wiped from the memories of the populace.  The Memory Police make sure that everybody has forgotten and there are no remnants of those things anymore.

Our protagonist is a young novelist, she finds herself in quandary when her editor R comes under suspicion of the Memory Police, people who fall in their path never come back, so she hatches a plan with her friend The Old Man to hide R.  R she knows is dangerous because he still remembers everything that has been taken away.  He must be protected at all costs to ensure the memories of the past are never forgotten.

I enjoyed this book, the descriptions of how random items disappear was unsettling, how something like a rose can be there one day but the next gone and forgotten.  I would say it is a dystopian read but not a bloodshed and bombs dystopian, there are no zombies or fallout shelters, there is simply quiet rebellion.

The one thing I would like to know more about is how all this came to be, where did The Memory Police come from, why do they do the things they do?  They are very mysterious in their directives.  Also why are certain things chosen over others?

It was so nice to read a dystopian novel that went slowly, If you have read and enjoyed 1984, then definitely give this a try.

Thanks to Net Galley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.



  1. Good review. I want to read this. When, is the question, but I will get to it.

    1. Ha! Yes that’s the problem with this hobby of ours, so many books we want to read now!!

  2. I have only read a couple of Japanese authors, so I might give this a whirl next year. 👍✨

  3. I have this on my TBR, and now I really want to read it. Thanks for reminding me😁

  4. This is another one on my TBR list. The idea of it is just so intriguing! (And I do like 1984.) Great review. :D

  5. I love the mysterious quality in novels from Japan. I liked this one a lot.


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