Memories from Limon by Edo Brenes

Set in Limon on the coast of Costa Rica, Ramirez travels from London back to his family for a brief holiday. His mother has found a suitcase of photographs and they look through them together. This then sets Ramirez off on a journey interviewing the older members of his family and of course, finding out a family secret. In most stories the secret does not remain secret and the story then moves on to tell of the repercussions for the family but here the secret remains a secret.

I am assuming that Ramirez is Edo Brenes and that this is autobiographical although fictionalised in parts where there is dialogue between two characters and one of these is dead in real life but the book doesn’t say explicitly.

The images are black line drawings with colour used – greens when back in Limon and blues when interviewing relations until we get to the crunch and then more mustardy-yellow is introduced linked to one of the characters. I really enjoyed the drawings of the photographs with just the palest hint of blue and pink included. They had obviously stood the test of time better than some of my family photos which during the 50s were tiny and all in black and white. Of course, the photos enabled people to talk and to remember much more than they could without them and so they were integral to the story and how it was obtained.

Different fonts were used when different people were speaking which was really useful, particularly when you were looking at the photographs and could only ‘hear’ the voices. The family tree was very useful just at the point where I was starting to lose track of all the relatives and like most family trees, there were gaps.

Whilst this is a story about memories, it is also about sibling rivalry and how parts of stories become forgotten, deliberately in some cases, or just passed over and how useful photographs are for triggering remembering.

I was left with the question – what will happen now that photos are all digital? We won’t find them in the attic or under the bed because most of us won’t be able to access them if they are in an account and that person has died.

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