Remember Me is a book of layers. When a bag lady is robbed of her suitcase and wig and goes in search of the thief, the layers begin to peel away revealing memories that are often convoluted and blurred. Who is this strange woman? A squatter who inhabits empty rooms and dark corners and seems to be little more than a human shell. We learn that her name was once Patricia but that she’s Winnie now and that the story buried behind the blank face spans seven decades and the second of the two wars that convulsed the globe.
The suitcase isn’t the only thing that has ever been stolen from Winnie. Her childhood was stolen by the ghosts that robbed her mother of her sanity and by default robbed the child of a mother. Later, her name was stolen by the grandfather with whom she was sent to live when her widowed father couldn’t afford to raise her. When war opens, she suffers yet another relocation when she is sent to the Fens to live with her aunt in a land of bountiful rain and mud and not enough food for anyone. For a brief period afterward, Winnie’s life sparkles but then it spirals downward yet again.
More often than not we walk past the homeless women who squat in empty doorways; Azzopardi takes a different approach. Using her considerable skill as a novelist she creates a poignant tale of a woman who reels from one crisis to another, unable to control the events and the people that rob her of the things that matter most. As Winnie searches for the truth, she truly becomes a person worth remembering.
This is the second of Azzopardi’s four novels and the first I read. Remember Me was shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year.