The Memory Trope

To continue with the trope of memory, memories and remembering, I find this in David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – a novel I’ve just finished reading and am rereading right away. The slave, Weh, is considering what he ‘owns’ – what he is allowed to own. He knows he is not allowed to own goods or money; indeed, “… a slave cannot even say, ‘These are my fingers,’ or ‘This is my skin.’ We do not own our bodies. We do not own our families”. He ponders the question of whether he owns his own name – not his slave-names – but his true name, the one he tells nobody, “so nobody can steal my name.” Weh muses: Do I own my memories? And comes to the conclusion that, like his true name, his memories are things he owns.


I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciated this book. It isn’t an easy read, far from it, but so worthwhile. If you do read it, The Bone Clocks is in the same series and also a brilliant book.

So, remembering boarding school, the awful, all-consuming homesickness. Many children at boarding school suffer terribly from homesickness and I was one of them.

It’s the terror you see, the terror of feeling home is going to forget me. Or me forget home.

It is the ‘not-belonging’, the ‘not understanding’. I recollect discovering that the younger boarders (like me) were only to use the washbasins on the left side of the bathroom. An unwritten rule that nobody bothers to tell you until you make the mistake of using one on the ‘big-girls’ side! So insignificant now, but so horrible then.

Then I discovered that if my table manners were bad enough I was made to take my meal to the Boarders Library and eat it there. Oh joy! I’m still not sorry I flicked jelly at the Head Mistress. That, or any of the other naughtiness I thought up to get out of the dining room and into the library!

The Memory Trope