How to Forget – Marius Brill

How to Forget

Five words from the blurb: illusionist, forget, brain-scientist, experiment, adventure

I hadn’t heard of this book, but I received an email from its publicist and was instantly drawn towards the premise – I couldn’t resist a book that combined magic with brain science!

How to Forget is a fast-paced, complex adventure story which also manages to include details of scientific research into brain function and memory.

The central character is Peter, a magician forced to entertain the elderly after a children’s party went horribly wrong. Peter is also in a relationship with Kate, a con-artist wanted by the FBI. The pair become involved in an increasingly complex plot which is clever, but often difficult to follow. I frequently found myself re-reading sections in order to fully understand what was happening. I’m sure I’d benefit from starting the book again, just so I could pick up on all the details I didn’t spot first time around. This shouldn’t be seen as a negative – it shows a depth and intelligence not seen frequently enough in modern books.

The sections on human memory were thought provoking. The book suggested that people would be happier if they could forget certain aspects of their lives. I’m still thinking about the questions this book raised about who should be allowed to have their memory wiped and although this book is probably too long and complex for the average book club I think that many people would love to discuss the issues raised in this novel.

How to Forget has some of the cleverest plot twists I’ve come across. I loved the way it explained the tricks con-artists/magicians use to misdirect the public and how these were used to allow the characters to escape from various situations.

The mind is vulnerable and who we think we are can change entirely under all sorts of pressures: amnesia, fugues, false memory syndrome, alcohol, drugs, gods and even, for a split second, a pack of cards. Every day we see how susceptible the brain is to accepting false conclusions. How it can create connections and memories to explain the unexplained, in its insatiable eagerness to make sense of the world.

My main problem with this book was that I was so busy concentrating on the numerous plot threads that I was unable to bond with the characters. I also found some of the scientific study notes unnecessary. Despite these criticisms I was impressed by ambitiousness of this novel. It isn’t perfect, but I’ll certainly be thinking about it for a long time to come. Recommended.


If you’d like further information I found this interesting interview with Marius Brill on the Foyles website.


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  1. stujallen says:

    this sounds very interesting I touch sometimes in my work on memory as the people I support tend to be in later life so have problems with there memories ,thanks for highlighting it Jackie ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I find memory really interesting – espeically the way we all seem to remember/forget different things from the same events. This is a very interesting/clever book and I hope many more people decide to give it a try.

  2. Celawerd says:

    This sounds like an interesting books. I have always found the brain and how we form memories fascinating.

    1. Jackie says:

      Celawerd, Yes. I love books that inform at the same time as entertaining. The brain is such an interesting subject. :-)

  3. This one sounds so intriguing. I loved the way Barnes explored memory in a non-scientific way in The Sense of an Ending and keep thinking of how memories shift with technology too. I’m off to search for this one!

    1. Jackie says:

      Carrie, I prefer the scientific exploration of memory, but I’d be interested to see what you think of this one. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to give it a try.

  4. Sandy says:

    This sounds really good. It might just be the kind of book that I walk away from knowing more about something.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I certainly ended this book knowing more than I had before :-)

  5. Nice! I love memory! I.e., in my Psychology study I did two short courses on memory as “free” subjects because I find it so interesting. This book is going on my wishlist.

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, I think I’d have done courses on memory if given the chance. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

  6. Jenners says:

    I could see the attraction of this book. Part of me wants to know just happened at the children’s birthday party. Sounds like you need your wits about you when reading though.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, The children’s party scene is fantastic! I am always in awe of party entertainers and wonder why more don’t descend into chaos – 30 children always have a physical advantage over a single person!

      You do need to concentrate to follow this one – it isn’t one to read on public transport.

  7. It sounds great – I would definitely go to a book group that was reading that sort of things – always good for a bit of a debate. :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Literary Kitty, I can imagine a lot of book groups would struggle to complete this book (most people wouldn’t set aside enough time to finish it) but I’d love to discuss it. Hopefully a few bloggers will read it now and we can get a discussion going. :-)

  8. OH this sounds so very interesting, I love books with lots of plot twists! Doesn’t seem like it’s available here yet… umm…

    1. Jackie says:

      christa, Oh no :-( Sorry to hear it isn’t available. Hopefully the international book deals will start flowing….or there is always the Book Depository….

  9. Annabel says:

    Going to have to get this one! All the things I like…

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, I look forward to seeing what you make of it. :-)

  10. Aths says:

    This sounds like my kind of book too! Anything with brain science in it appeals to me. It’s fascinating to think how much of your self-identity is in our brain and hence is the first thing you lose on a brain injury.

  11. Kailana says:

    This sounds rather interesting and I have never heard of it before, either, so I am thinking I will have to look into it further! Good review!

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