Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 10, 2014

Sensational Snippets: The Memory Trap (2013), by Andrea Goldsmith

I am reading Andrea Goldsmith’s latest novel, The Memory Trap and I keep finding wonderful bits that I want to share.  It’s so rich in ideas and insights, I could easily quote pages and pages and still not have exhausted the book’s possibilities.

The novel starts rather slowly, setting the scene and introducing the characters in a quiet, reflective way, but it shifts gear when conflict between the characters comes into play.  It becomes one of those novels that triggers all kinds of thoughts around issues that are central to our lives.  I was quite taken aback when I read that the Garden of Exile at the Jewish Museum in Berlin was what’s called an experiential memorial, and that not everyone approves of the concept of visitors ‘experiencing’ some aspect of history in the memorials they visit.  I had never thought about it in that way.  And as it happens, at school this week I have a ‘Memorial Box’ on loan from the Australian War Memorial, and amongst other memorabilia such as medals and documents, it comes with bits and pieces of uniforms that the children are encouraged to wear.  I had not thought through exactly why I would want to use realia like this in my teaching, and now I am questioning my own assumptions about that.  But that’s just one of many issues raised by The Memory Trap

The main character is Nina, who has what sounds like a fascinating job as an international consultant on memorial projects, and this enables Goldsmith to explore all kinds of traps that memory can make us fall into.   Nina’s come back to Melbourne after her marriage failed, and is revisiting old friends and relationships along with her family.  There are lovely passages extolling childhood memories from family holidays on the Victorian surf coast – and then there’s this:

How fresh those memories were.  The lunches on the sand, comparing and sharing Christmas presents, the salt-tight skin after swimming, the dangerous undertow, sand mixed with sticky white sunscreen, squishing jellyfish between your toes, pruney fingers and blue-tinged lips after hours spent in the water, and the friends who were the best part of her world.  Friends for life, they pledged back then, forever friends.

It’s ironic that childhood, the period of life that’s all change, so readily assumes permanence.  This is, perhaps, the most trenchant of childhood’s delusions.  And it occurs despite blatant evidence to the contrary: school friends change from year to year; favourite subjects, favourite sports,  even hopes and ambitions regularly change; families move house, a father dies, the body grows and reshapes; there are new fashions – in clothes, in music, in possessions; childhood’s pains – the immediacy of childhood experiences and the smallness of the child’s world result in the child assuming – there is little reflection on these matters – that these friends, these moments, these possessions, these sufferings will endure.

As Elliot drove the coast road, the glistening ocean to the left, the scrub and cliffs to the right, Nina was aware of the warmth and happiness emerging from those ancient days and filling her now.  And she was struck with the power of memory for itself, and no matter how far you have travelled, it can ambush you and pull you back.

The Memory Trap by Andrea Goldsmith, Fourth Estate (Harper Collins), 2013 (p. 115)
ISBN: 9780732296728, purchased from Benn’s Book Store, Bentleigh.

Don’t let this most interesting book slip under your radar!


Fishpond: The Memory Trap


  1. Reblogged this on The Logical Place and commented:
    Andrea is an old uni friend of mine (from the first time).


  2. I loved this book! I was surprised to hear Andrea once
    saying at a talk that there was no actual job of consultant for memorials – it all sounds so convincing.


  3. Yes, she created the position for her character Nina. Andrea says part of the fun of writing for her is giving her characters interesting things to do.


    • How fascinating! It does sound convincing, and dare I say it, it’s also a convincing case for making it necessary too.


  4. hi, I really enjoyed this book. It was one of my favourite reads of 2013. It was only because I read Reunion and was keen to read another one of her books that I picked it up, otherwise it would have quite easily slipped under my radar! I am glad to see it featured as a Sensational Snippet.


  5. Thank you for this snippet. I loved Reunion, so I’m looking forward to reading this one. Goldsmith is so good at using fiction to explore ideas. And memory and its relation to identity (and euthanasia) was one of the themes of Reunion.


  6. I thought Reunion was excellent too and couldn’t understand why it was missing from the MF nominations for that year. (see


  7. […] spent on public monuments and memorials, and as I discovered from fellow-readers when I posted a Sensational Snippet from The Memory Trap, Goldsmith has invented a marvellous job for her central character: Nina Jameson is an […]


  8. […] in The Australian Andrea Goldsmith, The Memory Trap, Fourth Estate 2014, see my review and a Sensational Snippet Gideon Haigh, On Warne, Penguin Books 2012, see a review at The Monthly Daniel Keene, Mother, […]


  9. […] of the Best Writing Prize is Andrea Goldsmith, for her novel The Memory Trap (see my review and a Sensational Snippet); […]


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