Book review: Should we really be erasing our nightmares?

THE unusual thing about this book is that it's narrated by someone who's not initially part of the plot. It's an interesting approach and our storyteller's objective delivery gives readers the sense that we're reading non-fiction. It's clever but also a little confusing. Initially.

Fifteen-year-old Jenny Kramer is raped while attending a local party. Her parents are devastated: her father is guilt-ridden at being unable to protect his daughter and desperate for revenge, and Jenny's order-loving mother just wants to make it all go away.

They agree the best course of action is a controversial form of treatment - providing the victim with significant amounts of morphine and painkillers to help forget the preceding trauma.

As a result Jenny remembers nothing. She knows what happened, but can't remember or feel anything about the attack.

And we're reminded that sometimes the treatment is worse than the "disease''. Or in Jenny's case, not knowing, not remembering and not feeling may be more damaging than the rape itself.

Which is when we finally meet our narrator, Dr Alan Forrester, an arrogant but seemingly talented psychiatrist who specialises in recovering memories "erased'' by the controversial drug treatment. Forrester believes these memories are not lost, but rather misfiled; and on the request of Jenny and her family he sets out to help her find them.

In some ways this becomes a whodunit of sorts and the pace picks up significantly. It's a race against time - but as Jenny tries to piece the night of the attack together, the secrets of those around her are revealed.

This provocative book from Walker is the perfect book club read as there's a lot to debate. Even though our good doctor relays Jenny's rape in his fact-giving dispassionate voice, it's still quite blunt. And Walker's characters swim in shades of grey. At times it's almost impossible to decide how we feel about them.

Interestingly Walker reassures readers at the end that the morphine cocktail which erases memories of traumatic events or prevents PTSD doesn't exist. Yet. At least, not in its entirety.

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker is published in Australia by Harlequin Books, RRP $22.49.

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