I’ve always loved Lisa Jewell’s novels, so I was counting down to being able to read her latest offering, ‘The Truth About Melody Browne’, after my exams.
It’s a beautifully crafted story based around Melody, who lost her memories of her childhood after a fire at her home. After a chance encounter with a hypnotist, memories start to reform, and Melody discovers she’s been completely unaware of who she is for twenty-four years.
By basing the plot around rediscovery, the twists and turns are fully justified and not just the product of an author attempting to push you towards the edge of your seat. Instead, ‘Melody Browne’ takes you on a shared journey, incorporating readers within the story by allowing them to discover things both with and before Melody herself. As such, her story becomes the story of any of us: who really remembers their childhood and the impact it’s unknowingly had on who we are today? Melody’s journey, therefore, becomes increasingly significant with each revelation, and draws you through the book with its tantalising teasers about the real Melody and her repressed self.
The only thing that bothered me were occasional slips in style: sometimes characters came out with things that didn’t seem to suit them, or the situation around them. This was more towards the beginning of the novel so maybe it was just working you into the plot, but towards the end when Melody confronts Gloria, it all seemed a bit too theatrically crafted, although the surrounding description was able to slightly justify Melody’s dialogue. I found Stacey quite hard to digest at times as well, but that’s probably because she’s more of a prop than a character in her own right, and she served her purpose quite well, although this is unlike Ben who was both prop and his own person.
Finding Ken at the end as well split my opinion: on one hand, it was a beautiful way to tie Melody’s newfound life together in a bow, but at the same time I felt Ken should have remained this mythological creature, which could have been achieved by leaving his role in the Epilogue as a silent embrace. Giving him words seemed to deflate his importance somewhat.
However, these very minor issues brushed aside, ‘Melody Browne’ was a thoroughly lovely read. Lisa Jewell showed how the innocence of childhood is directly connected to the building of a protected adulthood, and that the smallest details can alter our entire perception of the world. This was particularly poignant with Melody and Jane’s respective mothering: Melody’s protection of Edward was born out of Jane’s debilitating fear of loss, and it was incredibly poignant to see Melody overcome her fears, unlike the tragic end Jane faced. Tragedy became subconscious behavioural patterns, and it was incredibly emotional and fascinating to watch the roots of this behaviour become unearthed. ‘Melody Browne’ is a touching novel, filled with the mystery of knowing who we really are, and the life-affirming moments where you realise anything really is possible.