Dare to Remember by Susanna Beard
It’s rare that you pick up a book and find it resonates with your own experience, especially experience that is intensely personal. Just like the protagonist here, I once had an accident in which I very nearly died. Like her, my memory of the event has gone and I have no recollection of what happened: it’s a blank. I’ve also been closely involved with death and bereavement. Understandably, then, I was curious to see how other writers treat such an emotive combination. My experience has frequently resulted in disappointment as both are often treated too lightly or with little real insight.
That is absolutely not the case in Dare to Remember. This could be seen as a psychological crime novel – which is how Susanna Beard is portrayed (see her website) – but the book is more than that. The crime itself happens off-camera, is literally forgotten and, as the title suggests, the hero is gradually dared to remember the details of a horrific crime and come to terms with the loss of her closest friend.
But what is more important is the way Susanna Beard treats the emotional state of Lisa, the stages of her recovery from the traumatic episode and the happenstances that lead her to want to remember. The style of the book is tightly scene-focused rather than chapter focused, something that suits the subject matter and Ms Beard’s style extraordinarily well. Moreover, I could not help but admire the delicacy of treatment and, yes, empathy shown in virtually every scene. Further, I could not help myself but be drawn through Lisa’s recovery, despite her obvious emotional blocks from the very start of the novel.
The details and sensitivity is such that it is as if the author is writing from personal experience – which is not the case. That immersion is a real achievement.
All this means that it is a not a novel with masses of action and tense confrontations: but that is not what the novel is meant to be. We are kept away from the real horrors of the crime by Lisa’s partial recollections and what others can tell her about the crime. Yes, she eventually remembers much of what happens – and the reason for her losing her memory and withdrawing into depression is distressing and intensely believable – but the focus is on the events in Lisa’s life as she recovers, the development of friendships that both draw her out of herself by focusing on others and which arise from such expanded perceptions.
It is all so very real, so very delicately and carefully observed that I found myself empathising with Lisa, wanting to follow her story, wanting to help her. Whilst my reading list is long and intensely eclectic, this is a book that leap-frogged the pile and demanded to be read in as few sittings as possible. And I suspect it will be the same for many others.