From Tom Burkhalter – 5 stars ‘A book to read twice’
The richness of this book requires more than one reading. It takes you from the mundane to the sublime to the transformative. It does nothing that you expect, and Morris does the unexpected well. This book is a surprise and a delight in the reading I thought I lost some thousands of books ago. Well done indeed!
From Mandy Howes – 5 stars ‘Totally absorbing‘
This was a fascinating exploration of creativity, the power of the mind and what happens when someone loses the ability to do what drives them. Carol is a professional pianist who is forced by injury to stop playing. Hoping it is only temporary, when she experiences her close friend’s visit to an on-stage hypnotist who apparently cures him of his panic attacks through regression to a former life, she is sceptical. But when she meets a former schoolfriend, now a physiotherapist and hypnotist, she is unwittingly drawn into a series of similar experiences – but her episodes are from future. She remains cynical yet is inexorably drawn both to her alter ego from the future, Andreq, and her enigmatic and manipulative hypnotist, Gene. An extended stay in the strange West Country seaside town of Vellonoweth, and encounters with a group of mystics whom she at first dismisses as eccentric charlatans, but who become increasingly sinister, leads her to wonder exactly what it is she is getting drawn into.
Carol’s pain, frustration and talent are vividly drawn, as are her lovable friend Jerry, the distant and manipulative Gene and a colourful supporting cast of Vellonoweth eccentrics. Both the London and small-town settings are really atmospheric. This is a really involving novel, with some fascinating and exciting twists and turns, as well as giving plenty of food for thought.
I really recommend this and look forward to reading more by Roz Morris.
From C Flynn – 5 stars ‘Loved it’
I loved this book – I was away on a writing retreat and instead of writing I ended up spending hours lying on my bed reading it. In some ways I should have hated it – as a rule I don’t like fantasy or science fiction – although My Memories of a Future Life really defies classification. All I know is I was gripped from the beginning.
There was a fascinating transition from the real streets of London to a seaside town in the southwest and I felt an increasing sense of menace. At times it gave me the creepy feeling of Rosemary’s Baby or the Wicker Man in the evocation of a village full of people all in the know and talking about Carol, the protagonist – the outsider. This place, Vellonoweth is in itself very strange with its underground power station and offshore radio station that transmits whale songs, discussions of records of railway trains and beginners’ clarinet lessons.
Throughout the book the struggles of Carol, a professional pianist suffering from RSI, to come to terms with her condition, her past, her relationship with her career as a pianist and her personal relationships with the men in her life are beautifully expressed. The book is also a masterful portrayal of the act of making music and the way it feels to play a piano.
The story is very unusual and very creative – from the way instead of a past life regression Carol experiences a future life regression (and why not?!) – to the nature of this future world – a rather beautiful undersea city which is superbly and vividly evoked. I would love to be able to xech – Carol’s future self, Andreq is trying to hide the fact that he cannot do this act – so essential to his role as a soothesayer (not soothsayer) – in a parallel to Carol’s struggles with RSI.
I did get a bit confused by the profusion of characters in Vellonoweth and in the last third of the book did wonder where exactly it was going – but it got there in the end and in a very satisfactory way.
Roz Morris writes like an angel – perfectly crafted sentences and imagery like little jewels on the page. Highly recommended.
From AC Flory – 5 stars ‘Literary urban fantasy with a pinch of love’
Despite my best attempts, categorizing this beautifully written novel is next to impossible. At one level it’s the story of a pianist who can no longer play and gets caught up in hypnosis and regression [or should that be progression?] in an effort to find a cure. At another level, however, its a story about an unloved child who grows into an adult without ever growing up. And then there’s the love that isn’t really love but need. Yet it is not until you feel all these interrelated themes subtly coming together that you get a real feel for what the story is all about. And it’s wonderful.
From Peter Snell, Barton’s Bookshop – 5 stars ‘Memories of Roz Persist at Barton’s Bookshop’
I was so impressed with this book that I persuaded Roz to hold a signing session in my shop. She agreed and we had a splendid morning and afternoon with lots of customers buying copies of Roz’s books. They are so good that I just leave copies on the counter, talk about them a bit and let them sell themselves. I realise this is a strange review so far since it does not discuss the book. I will correct that now. “My Memories of a Future Life” is unlike anything you have read before. Her characters are unusual but believable and left me wanting to know what happens to them in the future. As a bookseller I have to read 100s of books. Rarely do I read books more than once for pleasure – this book is one of them – it really is that good. I understand that there may be a new novel unrelated to this one coming together in Roz’s fertile brain and if so then I intend asking her to allow me the privilege of another signing in the fullness of time.
From Hugh – 5 stars ‘An excellent read’
I enjoyed this book very much. It was an unusual read for me, but I read it because I’ve also enjoyed some of Roz Morris’s other work. The ideas behind it are fresh, the plot unpredictable to the end and the characters interesting; I was entirely engaged and convinced by the main character’s life. I also liked the writing itself very much, with its story within a story having echoes of others such as Atwood’s ‘Blind Assassin’.
From Maryann Madsen – 5 stars ‘Stop Your Digging Through The Indie Slush Pile–This Is The Book‘
If you’ve had great success as a blogger and writer of a writing how-to book, it’s best if your own work is put on stage under another name. Readers are going to be more critical, expect more, and the fall could be very long nightmare if your book doesn’t come up to your own instruction to others.
Roz Morris, writing under her own name, has nailed her novel. Wow! She’s nailed it with a solid blow powered by fine writing, skilled storytelling, excellent pacing, twists, turns, and a story that both entertains and informs. What a welcome relief spending time under the spell of such a skilled artist.
This is the pop age of ghosts, vampires, and assorted paranormals. In the midst of the craze, Roz Morris has created something unique, something that truly haunts the reader long after the book is done, and plants questions in the reader’s mind that echo throughout their own continuing experience beyond the book. I was raised by a working mother and stay-at-home grandmother, the latter having been the high priestess of a metaphysical church during the spiritualism of the 1930s. I thought I’d heard it all and there wasn’t anything new to be added to the occult. Wrong. The imagination of Roz Morris has taken spiritualism into new territory. Even my grandmother would have been mesmerized.
From the very first paragraph, where the protagonist is struggling with the yoga trend in hopes of healing a mysterious malady that threatens her identity and lifestyle, the writing is clean and captivating. No clever names for this writer’s protagonist. No, it’s simply Carol, a name suggesting it could be you, it’s probably me, or perhaps my neighbor in more distress than I realize. Even the malady that threatens Carol seems like one we’re familiar with, but no, it’s doesn’t quite fit the profile. It’s different from what we’d call a Repetitive Stress Injury. Just a bit off kilter, as are the panic attacks of her long-time roommate, Jerry. Right up front Roz Morris plants seeds of something being a bit off balance, then skillfully nurtures those seeds until everything is entangled in tree limbs clawing at the window and submerged under water. It’s impossible to tell which way is up and in which direction to turn for rescue.
Getting to this point in the story is a journey of musical masterpieces played out in words on the instrument of our sensibilities. The reader believes, believes deeply, there is something to the mysticism of past life regression, something astonishing in Carol’s progression into a future life. The journey is surreal, yet the reader is brought in by Morris to that matrix where belief and doubt double over each other and entangle the reader in their lines. The story lines. The plot is musical in its pacing, yet structured to suit the cinematic expectations of the modern mind. The ending was a complete surprise but inevitable. Everything is working here.
In a television interview, T.C. Boyle was asked what his novels meant. He shrugged and said, “I just write the books. What they mean is left for the reader’s exploration.” Like others who have reviewed this book, I’d like to talk to someone about it. There are so many options for this novel becoming profoundly personal to the individual while still sharing universals of the human condition with others. It’s rare finding a book you want to discuss with others, share with others, and dig deeper into with others. This book does the trick. I want company on this adventure, kindred souls to march in the illusion of St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I honestly didn’t expect to like this novel. I’m fried to a crisp on the paranormal, but this book is different. Amazingly different. As the pages turned, I was turned inside out for my own examination. I really do have to think about this more. I “get” the novel, I’ve been impacted by layers of possibilities, but it still feels as if there’s something more I’ll understand about myself, about you, about my lonely neighbor, as the book continues to trickle down the sand dunes of my awareness.
This is one heck of a bold and brave novel, written by a skilled artist. This is a teacher who not only practices what she preaches, but exceeds those teachings on all levels.
From Leila Smith – 5 stars ‘Remembering Rachmaninoff and Ruby among the seaweed and the flowers’
When I started this book, I was almost sure that I would not care for it, but I was wrong, wrong, wrong.
I enjoy character studies and this is one of the best and most entertaining I have read. This is one of those novels chock full of eccentric, offbeat (and I use the term advisedly) characters and xechers. It reminds me of a quote I just read from Sebastian Faulk about another novel:
“it is like being taken for a ride in a peculiar kind of car. Everything is of top quality – the engine, the coachwork and the interior all fill you with confidence.”
But then, after a mile or two the steering wheel starts to grow and shrink; the wind screen looks completely distorted, the driver is missing inexplicably for a few minutes from time to time.
Carol Lear starts her future life on a yoga mat “Being told by a barefoot girl to empty my mind. `Shavasana,’ she intoned as she passed me at a serene pace” (Savasana is, of course, the corpse pose.) So, she starts her journey to her future from her figurative death, unable to play her beloved Chopin and Rachmaninoff. Along the way she meets:Karli the spurned boyfriend; Jerry the gay roommate; Tom, Jerry’s friend; Eleanor an aspiring musician with a heavy hand, a lead foot, and one of Gene’s devotees, Aunt Jenny (who knows her only by reputation); Willa Barry the waif who plays the music of the spheres; Andreq and Ruhul (you’ll have to buy the book to find out about them);Anthony Moorish (reminiscent of another master of the Black Arts); Richard Longborrow, dapper crackpot psychic; medium-soothesayers(sic) cum kidnappers; Isabel the mercenary; P.I. Neen who has an unexpected employer, and Gene – Gene Winter, the cruelest most manipulative hypnotherapist she could have conjured up.
“Performing can be a full, rich life. But I hadn’t had a life. All I had was a six-foot wooden box. I’d locked my future into it as a child, deferring the rich, full life to some indefinite date. Like Andreq, I have to let it go.” Get it? six-foot wooden box? Perfect for a very long savasana.
And her journey to the future almost ends like this:
“Small plastic things nudge against my arm like feeding fish. My tapes. Loose tape curls around my hands. Or is it seaweed. Andreq, come to say goodbye. Until next time?”
Honestly, this book prompted me to go to a hypnotherapist, just to see if the American protocol is anything like the zany British ones (it wasn’t – but was equivalent in “hokiness.”)
By all means, buy and read it straightaway, but skip the hypnotherapist – he’ll take your money and your tapes and leave you xeching with Andreq.
From Joni Rodgers – 5 stars ‘Brilliant idea + excellent writer = pure pleasure’
I am seconding the reviewer who said “I want to talk to someone about this book!” It’s a born book club selection with a maze of ideas, questions and themes to discuss. I’m always on the lookout for fiction that takes creative risks, draws me in with a compelling voice and shows a real mastery of the craft of writing. This book does all that and more. My Memories of a Future Life delivers on a genius premise with grace and storytelling skill.The plot points have been covered here already (a little too well in a few cases), and really, a synopsis of the book doesn’t address what (for me) it’s really about: the endless slipstream of possibilities of human existence. The author takes control of what could be a tangle of threads in less skilled hands. She makes it accessible, charms us with characters we don’t want to leave behind and challenges us with a complex idea we couldn’t leave behind if we wanted to.A thoroughly entertaining, thought-provoking, wonderfully moving verismo of a novel.
From Pollo – 5 stars
“My Memories of a Future Life” is Roz Morris’s first novel under her own name. That qualification is needed, because she’s actually written (or at least ghost-written, which comes to the same thing) eight bestsellers in the “Special Forces”/thriller genre. But if that’s the kind of thing that has you diving for your post-dumbdown-apocalypse bunker, fear not – Morris’s “own” novel is something completely different. In fact, it’s pretty much completely different to anything I’ve read before.
The main character, Carol, is a concert pianist suffering from repetitive strain injury to both hands that leaves her unable to play. She meets Gene, an algiatrist who is able almost at will to put her into hypnotic trances, during which she experiences regressions with a difference – as the title of the novel tells us, her “regression alter-ego”, Andreq, is from the future. The story revolves around her ever-closer entanglement with Gene, her hypnotic regressions, her hope that he may hold some mysterious key to her life, her awareness that he may be using her and her desire to break through his limits and redeem them both through love.
Carol’s RSI plunges her into despair. Not depression – she doesn’t collapse into inactivity or shut herself away; she is active, even positive, determined to find a way through her problems. But the one thing on which her life has been focused and around which it has been organised, the thing that despite everything (including her own doubts) is more important to her than anything else, has been taken away from her, and her life is shattered by it. The everyday facts of her life remain essentially the same, but whereas once they were melded into a coherent whole by her music, now that is gone they no longer fit together. Nothing really has any meaning for her any more – or rather, the clear and determinate meanings things once had have fallen away, and she is left in a world in which meanings are unfixed and indefinite. That floating sense of meaninglessness, of helpless, drifting freedom, is characteristic of despair. Carol loses the ability to distinguish between what is important and what isn’t, because nothing has any real significance beside the enormity of what she’s lost. Amidst the fragments of her shattered life, she finds herself inhabiting two very different worlds – the dream-like world of her regressions, which has a crystalline clarity but is strangely narrow, with no sense of a life larger than what is actually described, and the “real” world, which has the breadth and detail and clutter and messiness of actuality but is unfocused, lacking a centre, like a waking dream.
In the last few chapters, we find ourselves slightly surprisingly in the midst of a tense, page-turning thriller. Personally, I found this less convincing than the rest of the novel. Morris’s past writing experience comes to the fore here, and there’s no doubt that she is highly skilled at crafting this kind of fiction, artfully interweaving the key structural elements of promise, threat, denial, fulfilment and reversal, and she hurls you breathless and panting through to the closing pages. In retrospect, though, I found myself rather wondering why these thriller-esque events had occurred, and what relation they bore to the main thread of the story. No matter -the end of the book is undeniably gripping, and does no real harm to the rest of the story.
“My Memories of a Future Life” is permeated by an overwhelming sense of loss. Curiously, this doesn’t make it depressing, so please don’t avoid it on that score – if anything, it’s uplifting. But it has a kind of delicate melancholy to it, and it gives you a terrible understanding of how such a loss can fracture your life. To say much more would be to spoil the plot, and I don’t want to do that because this is a book you must read.
Above all, it’s beautifully written. Morris’s style is perhaps the greatest pleasure her book offers us. So many novels – especially those with an element of fantasy – are overwritten, bogged down in turgid prose, or ploddingly pedestrian, and it’s a real delight to read something written with such poise and pellucid ease. Morris’s writing has an extraordinarily precise touch. She has a hawk’s eye for the tiny detail that lifts a description with vividness and colour, or for the incidental movements, gestures or turns of phrase that give her characters life and depth; and she nails every point with clarity and precision, without a single word de trop. In the opening pages, for example, the sensation of electrodes stimulating a response from Carol’s damaged hands is “a spider-leg scratching, an electrical rasp, a dance of millipedes under the skin”; and the self-righteousness of a yoga instructor is expertly trapped in a single damning sentence: “`Shavasana’, she intoned as she passed me at a serene pace, toes spreading with each step. `It means corpse pose.'” Roz Morris is gifted with the literary equivalent of her protagonist’s perfect (or, as Carol sternly tells us, “absolute”) pitch – although as Carol also points out, such a “gift” comes at the cost of years of hard work and single-minded dedication.
Morris’s novel has prompted me to reflect on some long-held ideas about fiction. Coleridge described the reader’s relationship to fiction as “the willing suspension of disbelief”. I think it’s more than that. I think the essence of the relationship, for most fictions at least, is not a negative, a mere non-disbelief, but a positive belief. The good novelist creates a world that (at least while you’re immersed in it) you believe in with your heart and soul. With the best stories, you find yourself believing in their world more than the one you live in. It doesn’t matter how much it departs from everyday experience – it can be completely fantastical, populated with angels and monsters, demons and gods, elves and vampires and teenage wizards – if the story is strong and the characters compelling, you place your trust in them. Belief and trust, of course, are elements of faith; if you have faith in the story and believe in the characters, that’s something like love; and out of love springs hope – hope that the story will come out well for the characters, that they will overcome everything in their way, that in the end they will be happy. Even in a tragedy, where you know that things will end badly, you can’t still your despairing hope. Faith, hope and love, these three – that’s what good stories are made of.
Key to maintaining belief is consistency. However bizarre the world of the story may be, if it’s consistent – if it remains within the rules it sets up for itself – your belief in the truth of what you’re reading is unaffected by anything that happens in it. But if something happens to make you doubt its truth, the whole structure can come crashing down. Shatter the belief, and everything else falls away. With bad novels, of course – those of James Herbert, say, or Barbara Cartland – you never even begin to believe, let alone love or hope: from the first words the whole thing is false, like a badly-told lie.
This is not intended to be prescriptive, which would be foolish; there are many works of fiction that don’t require, or even ask for, any kind of belief – Finnegans Wake, Beckett’s extraordinary fictional oeuvre, and the nouveaux romans of Alain Robbe-Grillet spring immediately to mind. Above all, perhaps, they make no pretence at realism. They do different things, they work in different ways, they engage different sides of the intellect and the emotions. But much, probably most, of the fiction that has been and continues to be written operates within a broadly realist tradition, and works by engaging your belief. (By “realism”, I don’t mean using settings, language and situations that reflect as nearly as possible the world we live in. The settings can be as baroque as you like, the situations as remote from actual experience as your imagination will allow; but provided the characters resemble us in the way they think and feel and experience their world, and as long as the story unfolds as a tale about them, that’s what I mean by “broadly realistic”.)
Flaubert and Balzac, writing at the apogee of 19th Century realism, worked both within and against this tradition. Both wrote novels rich in the kinds of realistic characters we can easily believe inhabit the world we live in – characters like us in “real-life situations”, with lives like ours or that we can imagine ourselves living. (I suppose Salammbo is a bit of a stretch, but the point there is to show that even in an exotic, ancient setting people had the same feelings and faced the same issues as in Flaubert’s time, or today.) Both go to great lengths to saturate us in realistic detail, grounding us firmly in the physical reality of their settings. And yet, in very different ways, each pulls the rug from under our feet, until we no longer know what’s real and what isn’t, what we can and can’t believe in. Flaubert gives us characters full of a yearning for the indescribable – the perfect love, the ideal life – the romantic longing for the Absolute, and then carefully, patiently, painstakingly shows us that this longing will always come to nothing, will always be defeated and trampled into dust by the inescapable small-mindedness and remorseless factuality of the world. Flaubert himself, of course, is filled with the same yearning as his doomed characters – as he famously put it, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi” – and it’s precisely this that lies at the heart of his appalled cynicism. Balzac has neither Flaubert’s overwhelming romanticism nor his unrelenting cynicism. He is more worldly, more understanding of and reconciled with the way of the world. Flaubert detests the world; Balzac enjoys it. Balzac has a powerful awareness of the impulses that beat within the romantic bosom and he is sympathetic to them, but he also knows that the romantic heart pounds in a corporeal chest. His novels not infrequently proceed for much of their length as if they are telling one kind of story, and then suddenly swerve into a completely different type of tale – it’s as if the story stops and then starts again, and although you’re still reading about the same characters and events they have a quite different meaning. The arch-realists Flaubert and Balzac both use the artistic form of fiction to undercut itself, simultaneously engaging your belief in their stories, their characters and their fictional worlds and making you aware of the artifice of their art, in a kind of ostranenie or Verfremdungseffekt avant-la-lettre which would have made Brecht and the Russian formalists proud.
That, in its very different way, is what philosophy does, too. How much of what we think is real is a fictional construct? Even leaving aside Nick Bostrom’s extreme view that the world we live in must as a matter of logical necessity be a computer simulation (although a less fun one than in the Matrix movies), the world we live in is a world of meanings. Every object, every occurrence, means something. A table is a recognisable thing, it has a function, it is made of something, you can put things on it, and so on. Even at the most basic level, by the time we are even aware that there is a table there, an enormously complex process of registering, sifting, sorting and collating impressions and putting them together into coherent spatial structures and temporal sequences that have meaning has already taken place. The rawest perception is a construct produced by the understanding; it has already been mediated and interpreted for us. Althusser’s “toujours déjà donné”, the “always already given”, is always already interpreted. We cannot have direct unmediated access to whatever is “out there”. That was Kant’s (and Schopenhauer’s) whole point. Not only do we not have access to a world without meaning, it is impossible even to imagine what that might be (because, of course, to attempt to imagine it would be to attempt to give it some meaning). But what we can do is question the meanings so familiar to us, and wonder whether they are necessarily the only ones possible, whether they are, in that sense, “true”. (“All that is solid melts into air”…)
Roz Morris’s novel is also a meditation on the nature of fiction and reality, and the writer’s and reader’s relationship with it. Just as Carol becomes aware of the parallel between “channelling” a composer in performing his music and “remembering” Andreq, so we are made aware of the way in which the author is channelling her characters to give us their stories (many novelists have attested to the way in which their works only come alive when the characters take over and start to tell the writer what they will and won’t say and do) – and how we in turn are channelling their story as it takes over our lives.
The novel’s McGuffin, of course, is whether or not Andreq is real, but ultimately it’s irrelevant – either way, Andreq is certainly as real for Carol as Carol is for us. At the same time, in making us aware of the fiction, Morris makes us question the reality to which we have given our belief, and that drives us to question the actual world we live in, and to wonder to what extent it is entitled to our faith, whether our belief in what is real is as firmly grounded as we thought. The trick, of course, is to reveal the artistic device – the fictionality of the fiction – without making us lose faith in its truth; and this Morris manages with a breathtaking deftness of touch.
From Build Another Bookcase – 5 stars ‘I need to talk to someone about this book’
Last night my wife went off to her local book club and I was so jealous. Not for the normal reason, that her book club is in a pub and I was missing a few pints. No, because she was going to have a chance to discuss with a peer group the book they had all read. I had just finished reading Roz Morris’s novel and it has left my head in a spin, with no pub full of cronies to help out.
As a musician, author and reader of literary fiction myself, this book was potentially right up my street. I know the author is a ghost writer and her blog posts are usually along the theme of music in fiction or writing advice. But what if it was crap? What if it was over-stuffed with in-your-face musical references and a writing style like a paint-by-numbers exercise?
I needn’t have worried. From the first few pages I was in comfort. Then I began to experience discomfort. Not with the prose or undeniable musical influence, but a shared discomfort with the protagonist as she battled with a debilitating, lifestyle threatening malady. As the literary themes developed it became difficult to put the book (well, ebook, I read it on my kindle) down.
The main themes that came across to me in this book were threefold: how much a life can be impacted by devotion to a single pastime or occupation; the draw of mysticism and the subtle line between belief and cynicism; and the trust that we place in others through relationships.
Being a multi-tasker myself when it comes to hobbies and occupations, I often envy those who can dedicate themselves to one particular pursuit. They achieve a level of immersion and eventual expertise that unavoidably places the ‘amateur’ label on others less devoted. Morris exemplifies this very well in the character of Carol, yet her very way of life is under threat as the problem with her hands begins to marginalise Carol from her own society.
The overt chicanery of the hypnotist Anthony Morrish contrasts well with Carol’s therapeutic experiences of Gene, and the other-worldly setting of Vellonoweth adds sinister elements reminiscent of The League of Gentlemen and The Prisoner. This balance between intrigue, mild terror and charlatanism is perfectly maintained throughout.
Carol’s friendship with Jerry is a cornerstone of her life. The Gene thing is dysfunctional but Carol clearly yearns for that excitement. Both she and Gene are pretty screwed up compared to ‘normal’ people. She’s very reluctant to give herself, he’s an enigma and the whole thing goes on above a buried nuclear power station.
Metaphors abound in this story. The reader is regularly invited to take things on face value, push them away as fake or adopt a Zen approach to the Andreq future life and Vellonoweth shenanigans.
Morris presents the whole like a crossroads where each and any direction can make sense. My Memories of a Future Life is a wondrous book.
From Bibi – 5 stars ‘A great read’
A highly original premise delivered with aplomb. This ‘when worlds collide’ story is both haunting and compelling. High quality writing, as you would expect from an already commercially successful author. A novel that stays with you long after the reading.
From Wench – 5 stars ‘A Jealous Professional’
Even the premise is one of those striking ideas that seems so beautiful and right, even obvious, but that you know you would never have thought of yourself: – if, by hypnosis, you can be regressed into a past life, could you be progressed to a future life? My immediate response was: Wish I’d thought of that! But I didn’t. Roz Morris did.
It’s far more than a great idea. From the very first page, the prose is a sheer pleasure to read. It’s a first-person narration by Carol Lear, and her voice is alive, witty, perceptive, expressive. I laughed aloud several times at her dry, neat nailing of a situation or person.
Carol is a classical pianist, passionate about her instrument and music, raging against the limitations placed on her by repetitive strain injury (the pain of which is so well described, it made my hands ache.)
She’s frustrated because her pain doesn’t respond to treatment. A close friend, suffering from panic attacks is in a similar situation – but his problems seem to be solved when he undergoes a past life regression. The unresolved trauma of his previous life has spilled over into his present life, causing his attacks; and only when he faces what happened in his previous existence can his panics be controlled. Carol is so desperate to be free of pain and to play again that, although sceptical, she is drawn to the idea of other lives – and, indeed, to the hypnotist, the elusive, attractive Gene Winter.
Carol experiences not a past life, but a future one. If the trauma of the life you’re living is shaping the life of an unknown stranger in a future you can’t recognise, what should you do?
It’s not a book easily categorised. Should I call it a literary novel? Science Fiction? Romance? You could make a case for including it in any one of those genres.
While reading, I several times thought I could predict the ending. I was always wrong. But the ending, when I reluctantly reached it, was beautiful, thoughtful, and right. It brought a realisation that the novel had never been about what I thought it had been about, and made me want to read it again, so I could enjoy the skill with which it had all been handled.
It isn’t about attacking and solving problems. It’s about, I think, the way we cause our own problems, but hide from them, preferring to fall over them and hurt ourselves again and again, rather than see those problems clearly, or – that thing we dread – changing.
It’s about resolution, about picking ourselves up, sorting ourselves out, and going on. Not, perhaps, solving the problem – which may be insoluable – but doing that very hard thing, changing, and walking away, leaving old things behind. Not, after all, memories of a future life, but – life in the future.
From The Book Witch Kathleen – 5 stars ‘Feisty heroines and devious heroes’
My Memories of a Future Life explores the world of professional classical musicians and the less respectable world of the mediums/spiritual healers who specialise in regressing people through their past lives. Roz Morris’ original take on this was, what if, under hypnosis, the subject wanders into a future life? `I thought ….. Who would do that? Why? What would they find?’ Having read Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black, which also explores the murky lives of charlatans preying on the vulnerability of their clients, I was quite intrigued by the subject matter. What I got was a first class page-turner.
It’s a romance and thriller woven together. Some reviewers have compared it to the The Time Traveller’s Wife. The writing is strong and original and the plot really carries you along. As a writer who has suffered from RSI, I really could empathise with the feisty Carol, a gifted pianist whose wrists hurt too much to play and who doesn’t know what else to do with her life. Through her flatmate she comes into contact with a spiritualist healer and begins to experience the dark underworld of the paranormal. She is thoroughly sceptical and manages to keep her common sense intact while her life suffers a number of earthquake moments. It was an excellent read and I’d recommend it to anyone. It kept me guessing right to the end.
From Indie e-book review – 5 stars ‘Remarkable’
Cally Phillips of Indie Ebook Review writes:
Two, or is it three, worlds collide in this remarkable novel where nothing is quite what it seems. I have a pathological dislike of the piano and a personal distrust of mediums (both instilled by my mother) but strangely, this was enough to keep me interested in the central character who narrates the story, as she was forced to try and reconcile the her personal trauma as a concert pianist disabled by RSI with the bizarre world of hypnosis and clairvoyancy which claims to be able to `heal’ her. The central conceit of the novel, that past lives interests people – there’s big money in it as Carole’s flat mate discovers- is offered an interesting twist by the consideration of what happens if you discover that you are the past life?
Carole is forced to address this issue and reflects `If I’m somebody’s past, if I was delivered into a future life, I know the rules. It means this life is done. It’s all over.’However, in her case it is far from all over. Her life appears to be falling apart and her relationships are never what they seem. The brooding, doctor/therapist Gene who claims to be helping her deal with the physical and psychological issues arising from being a regression of Andreq, is by turns romantic lead and demonic villain. In Andreq we find a character from a future which keeps the reader in a state of dis-ease throughout the four episodes of the novel. There was an interesting juxtaposition and blending of reality and fantasy and it’s a clever way of getting us to empathise with the central character. I loved the insight into the `alien’ worlds of the pianist, medium. My interest in what exactly xeching might be went a long way to propel me through the narrative. And of course, the ending couldn’t be predicted!
From Jessica Bell – 5 stars ‘ Words that make music’
Another book I will forever cherish. It is officially the FOURTH book on my shelf with underlined sentences. FOURTH. As you can imagine, it takes a lot for a book to make it to that corner of my bookshelf. The corner which embodies inspiration. The corner I turn to when I need to remind myself that words don’t just make a story, they make music. An amazing, stunning, beautiful book.
Favourite lines are:
Page 46: The champagne gave off a biscuity smell. The bubbles sparkled and jumped over the rim of the glass like a breath on my hand.
Page 103: The sun was a nicotine stain across the clouds.
Page 253: He drew the curtains and put a lamp on a low table. When he switched it on the shadows flowed like water into the hollows of the woman’s face.
Page 268: … the pain beat a metronome in my bones.
From The Kindle Book Review – 5 stars ‘A stunning achievement’
Roz Morris’s “My Memories of a Future Life” consists of four parts, which can be purchased separately or as one volume. But however you’d prefer to buy it, please do. Though technically a new novelist, Morris claims an extensive background in authorship, and judging from the impeccable quality of her writing there is no reason to doubt her.
I suppose on some level it must be said that her story deals with reincarnation–both past and future lives–and for that matter begins in a yoga studio. But if you’re not into this type of thing, don’t let it scare you away. Because what Morris is really writing about is the difficult challenge of life itself. You do not have to believe in reincarnation to enjoy or be enriched by this book. Whatever lifetime she is in, Carol Lear, a pianist whose seemingly physical condition is keeping her from playing, is a finely nuanced character. All of her thoughts, emotions, and deeds ring true. The point is not whether reincarnation happens, but that life happens. In fact, while reading it you may find yourself wishing that reincarnation doesn’t exist. For just one lifetime can be more than enough to deal with. Morris eschews the narcissistic or self-pitying attitudes that sometimes accompanies an interest in other lifetimes, and instead makes the idea of reincarnation–living forever–seem an inescapable element of the human condition. At times, the novel reminded me of Doris Lessing–though at the risk of committing a sacrilege, Morris is much more readable.
The book is surprisingly suspenseful, because you never know where Morris is going to take you next. And the ending is like the crescendo of a symphony. Bravo!
From JAW – 5 stars ‘Class, style and profundity – a rare combination’
‘Memories…’ is one of those books (appropriately enough given the title) which you just know, even only part-way in, will linger in the mind, for pleasurable pondering and turning-over in times to come. That is due to the rare combination of what I can only, if inadequately, describe as ‘muscular’, i.e. strong and effortlessly assured, writing, melded to ‘major themes’ and an author fully (but not obtrusively) in control of her creation. In short, the author knows exactly where she is going but the reader does not. The quite unforeseen ending met me like a brick wall – only pleasurably so.
So, although this is her first published work of fiction, so far as I’m aware, the author has hit the ground running at the considerable height of her abilities. There’s not a wasted line here, no slack or redundant passages (hence the ‘muscular’ description), but instead stark little lines or paragraphs that bring you up short with admiration and send you directly back, bungee-style, to re-read. Just to give one example, a two or three paragraph, almost throw-away, description of a London street-scene as near as dammit had me standing there seeing it myself. Such ability is rare. Other writers would take pages to attempt the same thing and still fail.
I should here declare an interest, insofar as I know Ms Morris personally. But so do a lot of people, not least via her must-read ‘writing advice’ web-site. Quite regardless of that, I nevertheless maintain that this is classy, stylish writing, conveying a profound tale in page-turning fashion. Unreservedly recommended.
From Victoria Mixon – 5 stars ‘Groundbreaking fiction’
In this intriguing reversal on reincarnation, best-selling ghostwriter Roz Morris turns the tables on all of us who have ever dabbled in past-life regression (and other New Age aspects of metaphysics). Don’t expect just another fable of “who I was.” Expect a complex, intelligent journey into the heart of Western understanding of reincarnation: what it is, what it could be, what it perhaps is not.
Morris is a pleasure to read, an accomplished writer with a clear, polished voice and vivid insight into character and place. Is her novel fantasy? Is it sci-fi? Is it a new, groundbreaking mix of fiction genres? What’s the truth behind the story of an injured concert pianist taken further into a dark–even surreal–future than she can handle?
From Mrs Helen Burton – 5 stars ‘Painfully accurate’
This week even the fiercely sceptical New Scientist magazine investigated the use of hypnosis to treat pain and concluded it is strangely effective, so it is an opportune moment to delve into the dangerous powers of mind over matter. In this novel with a heroine desperate enough to get into situations we’d prefer to experience vicariously. But somehow the adventure does take over the reader’s mind too: don’t plan to read just a few pages and try not to start reading it alone in the dark. Well it starts off very grounded in the grime of London’s Clapham Junction railway station and the twinges of a very modern affliction, RSI, keenly observed, but it gets darker.You have been warned.
From James H Byrd – 5 stars ‘A tale of learning to redefine your life’
I envy you, good reader, if you are about to read My Memories of a Future Life. When I started Roz Morris’ book, only Part 1 was available. I consumed it, and I wanted more. Rinse and repeat for the next two segments. When I downloaded Part 4, the final part, I was giddy with relief and anticipation. You, however, get to read the entire story without stop, and I believe that is exactly what you’ll want to do.
You can read the book description for a synopsis of the plot, so I won’t repeat that here. I’ll just tell you why I enjoyed reading it (without spoilers).
First, let me applaud Ms. Morris for her voice and style. MMoaFL pulls you in immediately with a relatable tale and a compelling protagonist. She paints an experience that is at times amusing, mysterious, surreal, and intense.
The book includes themes relating to repetitive stress injury and reincarnation, but those elements are just the backdrop for a dramatic story involving an obsessive woman who must face some of the biggest challenges of her life.
As someone who helps fellow fiction writers improve their craft, one would hope that Roz Morris would be capable of weaving a rich story full of detail and emotion; she does not disappoint on that score.
If I could change anything about the book, it would be that I wanted more. The ending wraps up the story in a satisfactory way, but perhaps a little too quickly and tidily. To say more on that subject would violate my promise of no spoilers. Just read the book and decide for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
From Y Johnstone – 5 stars ‘If music be the food of fiction’
Roz Morris’ novel ‘My Memories of a Future Life’ was rather different from my usual reading matter. I read mainly crime and historical novels and tend not to read anything that could be remotely described as ‘fantasy’. However, I was hooked from the start of this novel and kept on reading it while it got more and more ‘weird’ as the protagonist, Carol (the novel is written from a first person point of view) fell under the spell of a mysterious hypnotist she vaguely remembered from her schooldays. While in hypnosis Carol does the opposite of regression (‘progression’ perhaps?) and becomes a man called Andreq, an inhabitant of a future underwater city. All this happens against the backdrop of everyday London and a fictional coastal village in the south-west.
The novel is pacy and the characterisation is subtle and intelligent. I enjoyed the strongly musical theme which ran through the novel (Carol is a concert pianist who is suffering from RSI) and even learnt something new – the novel had me Googling the topic of ‘enharmonic pianos’.
I have now read many novels in Kindle format (I read this in its original 4 episode format) and have to mention the fact that this novel had the fewest number of typos I have ever seen in an e-books. There was some excellent proofing & editing done here!
From Joanna Penn, author of Pentecost – 5 stars ‘Unusual, stays with you after reading’
This book is disturbing in a way that keeps you thinking long after reading it. I found it an uncomfortable read, in that I thought about some of the challenges it raised as I read. The book centres around the idea of past life regression and we see that Carol, the main character, could potentially be the past life that a future self is regressing to. Or is she the product of a hoax escalated by the mysterious Gene Winter, a man I was fascinated with. With that much psychological power, I’d like to see a book that focuses on him as a protagonist. The writing is beautiful, evocative. The book is definitely literary fiction – in that there is more internal progression than action or traditional plot. It is original and I particularly enjoyed the aspects of music, as a non-musician, that seems so magical.
From Geoff Anderson – 5 stars ‘A symphony in words’
This is a must-buy novel. It is the best I have read this year, a beautifully written absorbing story. It is a rich immersive read, a wonderful blend of modern and traditional styles. Words woven and crafted with skill draw you into a world where you are never quite at ease with what is happening to Carol the relatable lead character; obliging you to read on to find out. I loved the musical references; in many ways Memories has a musical quality about it, light and dark textures with faster and more considered passages.
From Paul R Drewfs – 5 stars ‘Psychoactive literary fiction’
Roz Morris’s impeccable writing and leading lady’s intimate narrative literally Mesmerizes the reader into “My Memories of a Future Life.” No question about it, Roz is a shooting rock star of rarest literary resonance. Still, I think the book should come with a warning label. A cautionary note akin to that associated with the Kabalistic insight meditation practice of “running and returning.” The label should read, `If your heart races, quick focus on something material, lest you be engulfed in a profusion of symbolism and never emerge from it.’ The label is advisable as the book’s hypnotic kaleidoscope is woven of disturbingly psychoactive prose from which some unprepared readerships may never return.
From Matt Kelland – 4 stars ‘The end is an absolute rip-roarer’
I almost feel like I should be doing a proper literary criticism, of the sort I haven’t done since school: Synopsis, Themes, Characters, Style, Symbolism, Summary. That’s because this feels like a proper bit of “literature”. That’s a word I use with some trepidation: usually “literature” means “stuff I feel like I ought to have read but probably won’t actually enjoy” – whether it’s modern lit or classic lit. And don’t get me started on “chick lit”. This isn’t one of those bits of “literature”, though. It’s intelligent, thoughtful, and heavily character-based, yes, but it’s also very easy to read and it’s got a damn good story. That’s because most of Roz’s books are very different. She’s written under a number of well-known names, including [REDACTED] and [CAN’T TELL YOU OR I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU], and she knows how to tell a rattling good yarn. She’s not your usual literary novelist.
One of her other readers summed it up best – Memories is like John Fowles’s The Magus. I loved that book when I was a teenager, and I’m now getting a hankering to read it again. It’s the sort of literature I enjoy reading, combining a slightly unsettling plot with hints of more beyond. It’s not the depressing realism of your typical Booker novelist or the light fluffiness of a slice of middle class city life.
Memories is about a pianist who can’t play any more who goes to a hypnotist and starts channelling, not a past life, but a future life. Anything more would be a spoiler, so I’ll stop right there. Roz’s writing is some of the sharpest I’ve read in a while. She uses short, punchy sentences, punctuated by powerful metaphors and vivid descriptions. The result is some of the most readable prose I’ve come across in a while.
I read this in four parts as it came out, and I will admit that after the first episode, I was slightly dubious about where it was going. I was enjoying it, but once she introduced characters who were regressing to past lives involving Jack the Ripper, there was a small part of me inwardly groaning and hoping it wasn’t going to turn into some cheesy From Hell scenario. By the end of the second episode, I still wasn’t much reassured. But I’m glad I stuck with it, because the end is an absolute rip-roarer. (Her husband Dave popped up on Twitter when I mentioned my concerns, and assured me I wouldn’t anticipate the end. He was right. I should have known Roz wouldn’t resort to cliche without good reason. She’s better than that.)
I enjoyed this immensely. I’m torn between 4 and 5 stars, but that’s only because I’m really, really picky when it comes to giving out 5-star ratings, and I’d have enjoyed it more without the enforced breaks in the middle. However, it’s an easy four and a half. Memories is sharp, well-written, and a damn good read, and I’m looking forward to whatever Roz does next.
From Smudge – 5 stars ‘Beautifully written, evocative and absorbing’
Beautifully written, evocative and absorbing: Have now finished the whole book (reviewed part one previously). Early on it reminded me a little of The Time Traveller’s wife; like that book the imagery is strong and it too has layers of story within a story. However it developed, changed and grew into something quite different. The characters are believable and many are appealing: Eleanor and Jerry, but not all are likeable: Gene Winter. Despite not being musical myself or having RSI I really could empathise with Carol: brilliantly drawn. At times it was dreamlike and surreal and others down to earth and done with a great sense of humour. The most innovative book I have read this year: recommend you read it and see for yourself.
From Siddhartha Herdegen – 5 stars ‘Fascinating read, powerful writing’
Dynamic, well-rounded characters are what drive this brilliant story. All too often I have started reading a story only to find the author lazily slip into the well-worn rut of cookie cutter, single dimensional, stock characters. It’s at that point I usually put the book down. But “Memories of a Future Life” is filled with characters as individually interesting as real people.
Roz Morris masterfully creates not only memorable, unique characters but pulls you into their world and guides you along their journey. It’s an interesting and compelling trip through what is both familiar and bizarre, with every turn both organic and surprising. I found I could scarcely put it down. I have to say, Roz has a winner here. A masterful work of fiction.
From Anita King ‘Raven’ – 5 stars ‘Why do I keep thinking about it?’
When I first read this novel, it was broken into four parts and it was painful having to wait for the next installment. I was hooked from the start and was intrigued by the characters and what their motivations were, especially that of Gene. I still think about him fromtime to time, but little things in my daily life remind me of Carol Lear and what she went through. If I touch a piano, I know how she feels at not being able to play again, how 5min fingering the keys will mean a pain that could last the entire day. What would one do not to have to live in pain.
Carol’s journey was portrayed in such a realistic manner that it is impossible not to be there with her, feel for her. The other characters are also mesmerizing and intriguing, which gave the novel its intesity. At times I wanted to react for Carol and even protect her. But alas, this story is about Carol, her struggle and eventually, making peace with herself and her condition. I absolutely loved it.
From Mr P South ‘Snouty’ – 5 stars ‘Wonderful, disturbing and cinematic ride’
Once again I should state for the record that I know Roz personally, and I have reviewed the episodic version of this book before. My review in no way should be construed as me pumping her work as a favour because I’m not comfortable doing that. Of course I will recommend work by friends as a favour but this usually extends to just that. This was something different, I genuinely believe this is a great book and deserves a wider audience. So the disclaimer is that, I know Roz and like her a lot but I’m writing this review because the book itself is worthy of praise.
Now I’m glad we got that out of the way, and having read the whole book and having had some time to think it over I feel ready to write a proper review of the piece overall.
You know how sometimes you read a book and it lives in your mind for ages afterwards? And how sometimes you read a book and can’t put it down until it’s finished and when it is finished you feel slightly bereft? This book is like that. So many questions in your mind, so many memories of events and thoughts you had when you were reading it.
Of the many thoughts I had while reading this book:
1. Damn she’s good. As a writer myself I was very jealous of how well realised and entertaining and yet thought provoking her story was.
2. What an interesting thought. I can’t really tell you what that thought was because knowing that up front would possibly ruin the surprise.
3. I love it when a story introduces you to a world (in this case the world of professional classical musicians) that you are aware of but not fully involved in. All the flavour and nuance of the world adds to the atmosphere and leaves you with the pleasing (but probably hilariously false) idea that you know this world inside out.
4. On the last page I just sat there looking at it. That’s it? It’s over? But what about…? And did they? I mean don’t get me wrong the book ends entirely as it should, a piece of art should always pose more questions than it answers. I think the lack of total complete closure is a stylistic flourish and one that as time goes on I am more and more happy with.
For starters it might open the way to another book, which I’d love by the way, but more than that I think it’s singlehandedly responsible for the high regard I hold this story. It’s not answering all questions, so unlike mainstream trashy novels, the point is not to “find out what happens” because what happens is less interesting than “why happens” and “when happens”. It’s also treating you like a grown up with a brain and enjoining you to use it to sift the facts of the story into a pleasing order so that you can enjoy the cultural aftertaste for months and even years to come.
Plus because the truth of the story is not obvious, you come away satisfied but feeling you could easily read it again to get a bit more juice out of it.
That said it is a phenomenally easy book to read, relaxed, easy and sensory style, lots for your visual cortex to chew on. Which is what would make this book such a good film. It’s very visual, and in this modern computer graphics era totally doable.
Add to all this the fact I read the book on my iPhone Kindle app, not the most comfortable reading platform for someone as visually challenged as me, but totally doable. In those circumstances the text has to be riveting or you will give up. Actually provided I used my reading glasses I found the whole kindle experience to be a delightful way to read this book. On a larger screen like an actual Kindle or an iPad it would be even better.
So when Roz first pointed the book out to me and asked if I cared to read it and give my opinion I thought it would be a commitment of a few minutes flipping the pages and a tweet or a mention on Facebook. Actually it was hours of reading and even more hours of thinking, and a considerable amount of enjoyment.
Roz has ghost written many books under famous names, and so as a writer I can understand that writing under her own name for the first time, no mask, nowhere to hide, would be a daunting task. Add to that the worry about the book being good enough and doing her justice must have been similarly troubling. But I can say she has nothing to worry about. This is an original, substantial, entertaining read from someone who knows how to tell a story which entertains, provokes and in an odd way soothes. You’ll understand that last word better once you’ve read the book.
A wonderful, disturbing and cinematic ride. I wish her every success with it!
From Mr Julian Woodward ‘Woowar’ – 5 stars ‘Captivating’
How to review this book without giving too many spoilers for those who’ve not yet read it?
I found this a really compelling read. The way in which the plot gradually develops and darkens, and keeps throwing surprises at you, is thrilling, and kept me hooked until the very end. The author has taken a mundane (although genuinely horrid) medical issue – the RSI from which the main character suffers – and woven it into an imaginative and unnerving psychological journey. Highly recommended.
From Dark Side of the Covers – 5 stars ‘So good it made me late for work – twice’
Reading this novel was like experiencing life through another person’s body and mind. I repeatedly found myself falling into the lyrical language and haunting, twisting plot, only to surface with surprise and realize I was now late for work, because far more time had passed than I thought.
Morris is truly a wordsmith, blending description and dialogue into a compelling story that draws you in, plays with your mind, and leaves you a little breathless when it’s over. She possesses an uncanny ability to communicate not just what’s happening, but how it feels.
Carol, the protagonist and first-person narrator, is a woman struggling with the loss of her life as she knew it: she’s a lifetime pianist with a repetitive stress injury that has taken away her ability to play and left only pain. This is a scenario that could have easily led to a whiny narrative, but that’s not the case here. Instead, we find a poignant story steeped with melancholy, edged with a desperate hope, and twisted throughout with both darkness and humor.
In many ways the story defies classification: it is not a paranormal, but it flirts with the possibility of “other,” it is not a romance, although there is a relationship, it is not a mystery, although there are endless clues to be unraveled. What is it? Haunting, compelling, mind-bending, and definitely worth reading.
From Tahlia Newland – 5 stars ‘Wonderfully different’
From Michael I Levy – 5 stars
Rarely do I read a book that book that holds my interest from the 1st page to the last. My Memories of a Future Life is not only well written, but has the kind of complications that forced me to try and figure what will happen next. The characters have a uniqueness and as I kept reading i wanted to know more about them. In the end I felt satisfied and my time was well spent.
From James P Kelly – 5 stars ‘Hang on and be prepared’
Roz Morris hooked my wife and I on page one of “My Memories of a Future Life.” By the end, I’d realized she had cleverly taken us on a journey as profoundly unexpected as the life-path challenges her protagonist endures. Brilliant and brave! Recommended!