Carol Lear is a gifted pianist, but her life in music seems to be over when hand injury stops her from playing. Distraught that she may never play again, a chance meeting with Gene — a young physiotherapist and old acquaintance — puts her on a path to possible recovery. Gene becomes part of Carol’s life as he reveals he is able to help people overcome their pain through hypnotism.
Carol is dismissive of Gene, but also intrigued. Her flatmate and close friend Jerry takes a past-life hypnotic regression, which reveals him to have lived a previous life as a victim of Jack the Ripper. Carol doesn’t put much heed in Jerry’s experience, but as a close and supportive friend she is there to help him make sense of it. So when Gene offers her a similar experience, she eventually accepts.
Carol’s hypnotism does not take her into a past life, but instead she travels forward to a distant future where humans now live beneath the sea. She experiences the life of a man named Andreq, a healer to wealthy clients. Healing is administered through a mysterious process, the xech, but Andreq is unable to xech for his clients despite his best efforts. The parallels between Andreq and Carol are clear, and Morris writes gorgeous, flowing prose to evoke the underwater world and Andreq’s place there.
Andreq’s life is explored less completely than Carol’s. Her relationship with Gene is complex. Carol is unable to fully trust him and is unsure of his motivation, but faced with the fear of losing her her music, who else can she turn to? Her rheumatologist hasn’t given Carol the answers she craves; perhaps Gene can?
Gene takes a break in a remote Cornish village, and while away he informs Carol of an opening to cover for a singing teacher there. Understanding that the change of pace might be good for her, Carol accepts. The novel takes a different tone as Carol enters the lives of this fusty old village. The roster of characters she meets there are somewhat peculiar, while others are downright creepy. Some who practice past-life regressions become aware of Carol’s memories of her future life, and this is where the novel changes tone. Carol becomes private and protective of her experience in the face of the obsession that these past-lifers seem to have with her.
This novel is very different from anything I have read before. The language is beautiful, lyrical and evokes windswept wilderness and stormy seas. Carol is a fascinating person, richly drawn and utterly believable. Gene is equally complex, although his motivations are never completely clear. I found myself especially enamoured of the musical tone that runs throughout, and even though I am no musician, I found it easy to fully inhabit Carol’s passion — and her pain.
Towards the end of the novel, the nature of the story shifts up a gear. What had been a slow burning, contemplative mystery becomes more energetic, culminating in a bitter conflict set in a raging storm. I loved this unexpected end. The location, the setting, the characters all come together in powerful imagery and seductive prose.
My Memories of a Future Life asks timeless questions about longing, loss and memory that any of us can relate to. This is beautiful storytelling by a writer with a musician’s soul, and I await her next book with excitement.