Book Review: “Pieces of Light” by Charles Fernyhough

“When you have a memory, you don’t retrieve something that already exists, fully formed — you create something new. Memory is about the present as much as it is about the past. A memory is made in the moment, and collapses back into its constituent elements as soon as it is no longer required. Remembering happens in the present tense.  —  Charles Fernyhough in “Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts”

This is an absolutely fascinating book that explores the phenomenon of human memory and makes an incredible effort to explain to the reader just what memory is and how (we believe) it functions. The author shows us that the human power of memory is not nearly so straightforward as we generally assume it is.

author and psychologist charles fernyhough

Along the way, author and psychologist Charles Fernyhough strikes an impressively delicate balance between storytelling and clinical explanation. The result is a book that educates and illuminates without lapsing into prolonged stretches of dry medical terminology.

That this is a labor of love is obvious from the care the author lavishes in his attention to detail and the effort he has invested in getting the descriptive prose just right.

Although the subject is certainly absorbing in its own right, this book will be of particular interest to anyone who must deal with an aging relative or anyone suffering from trauma to the brain, such as concussion or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  But the arena in which these issues play out is in fact much broader and deeper, embracing  development of the mind at the very earliest stages of childhood as well as those episodes more commonly associated with the closing acts of life’s drama.

Hands Holding Model of a Brain

The case histories are as compelling as any fiction you may have encountered.

This book is written with heart and passion as much as anything.  At just under 300 pages, it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a selection you can polish off over an extended weekend.

And like all the best literature, it will start you thinking … and questioning what you remember.

Very Highly Recommended. (4.65 out of a possible 5 stars.)


About jaypochapin

Married adult human male, father, brother, son, writer, voiceover actor and humorist. Frequently funny, sometimes snarky, occasionally profound. Beatles, Stones, Who, Python, Firesign Theatre, Shakespeare, Bogart/Bacall, Marx Brothers, Alice Cooper and more besides. Have worked as many things: traffic reporter, disc jockey, newscaster, interviewer, producer, copywriter, voice over talent, teacher, emcee, housekeeper, janitor, uniformed security officer, bagel baker's assistant and more, but don't let the uniform fool you, baby! I ... AM ... THE WRITER!

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