The Memory Room

Author(s): Christopher Koch

General Fiction

This novel is essentially a psychological study of a spy, and an exploration of secrecy. It is also a study of the pathological condition known as folie a deux - the madness of two - in which two people share a common set of fantasies and delusions. Thus, although the novel has espionage as one aspect of its subject matter, its aims go far beyond those of a conventional spy story. Its three central characters all meet in their early youth in Tasmania. Vincent Austin, orphaned early, lives with an aged aunt in a suburb of Hobart. Brilliant but eccentric, with an intense inner life revolving around secrecy and espionage, he forms a friendship in early adolescence with Erika Lange, the daughter of a German migrant, who proves to have an uncannily similar inner life. Vincent has a 'secret room' in his aunt's house, where they create a private world, and the condition of folie a deux begins. Their relationship is not sexual, but ritualistic - and their friendship continues in adult life. At University, Vincent's aim is to enter Foreign Affairs - an ambition shared by his friend Derek Bradley, who is the novel's protagonist.However, Vincent is recruited by ASIS - the Australian Secret Intelligence Service - and his dream of being a spy becomes reality. Erika becomes a journalist, and eventually enters Foreign Affairs as a press officer, serving in a number of countries overseas. She is an unusually attractive woman, and efficient at her job; but her psychic unbalance causes her to go from one disastrous love affair to another. The three meet again in 1982, when they are in their thirties, and have all been posted to the Embassy in Beijing. Here, Erika and Bradley begin a love affair, which is ultimately doomed to fail. At the same time, Vincent attempts an espionage coup which ends in disaster, and he and Bradley are both recalled to Australia. The last phase of the novel takes place in Canberra in 1984: the year of Star Wars, and the ultimate crisis of the Cold War. Erika, also returning to Australia, becomes a highly successful interviewer with a television current affairs programme. She resumes her old friendship with Vincent, and now begins an affair with Peter Rykov, a correspondent for the Soviet news agency Tass.This affair leads to her death, and to Vincent's quitting ASIS and disappearing from the country. Their common obsessions in the Secret Room have led them to a reality which has proved fatal for Erika, and has caused Vincent to seek a new life. It is left to Bradley, who inherits Vincent's papers, to reconstruct the story of what has happened.


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Product Information

General Fields

  • : 9781741667301
  • : Random House Australia
  • : 5498
  • : November 2007
  • : 3.2 Centimeters X 15.3 Centimeters X 23.3 Centimeters
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Christopher Koch
  • : Paperback
  • : 1107
  • : 435