I received a galley of this novel from NetGalley for review. This in no way affected my opinions.
The Map of Lost Memories already sounded good just by my reading the synopsis. It was everything I was hoping it would be, and more: a fast-flowing historical fiction story, complete with adventure and women breaking all the rules.
The story is set in 1925; Irene is fed up with being constantly overlooked for her contributions to the Brooke Museum, and decides to make her own legacy, by setting out to find a set of scrolls that tell the lost history of Khmer.
I loved all the mysteries swirling about. Lots of people were hiding things, and Irene wasn't sure who she could trust. Even during her journey into the jungle, among people she wasn't so sure about, she had to have faith that everything would end up all right. And in a slight twist, Irene herself wasn't so sure what she was going to do. As the journey progressed, her priorities for the trip shifted into something else. It wasn't until the end, that she knew what had to be done.
As I said, the story flowed well, almost effortlessly. And even though I didn't know a thing about the subject of the tale, I was surprisingly able to follow along. I never became mixed up with what was what, and who was who. That's in great credit to the storytelling.
One of the things I was fearful of when I started reading – because I knew the story was mostly set in Shanghai and Cambodia – was the glorification or romanticism of colonialism. As I read, I was satisfied that wasn't going to happen. It showed a pretty honest view of how western cultures were forced on people on the east, and how this changed the natives of these countries, both for good and for worse.
Overall, a pretty great book for historical fiction fans that are looking for something different. I know I say that a bit, but it's really true in this case. Highly recommended.