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Simon Loftus

The Invention of Memory

From the arrival of his first ancestor in Dublin in 1560, Simon Loftus traces the fascinating story of his family's heritage in Ireland — piecing together fragments of legend and biography that span over 350 years of Irish history.

The background is the colonial conquest of Ireland and the clash of religious and national identity, but the focus is close at hand, familial. The passions and eccentricities, the daily concerns and relationships, the rich dramas and anecdotes of individuals in this Ascendancy family — over eight generations — combine to form an enthralling memoir of shifting viewpoints and entertainingly inconsistent accounts of a shared past.

The Invention of Memory is a profound family portrait and a sweeping history that examines the nature of recollection and how our memories are shaped by experience and time.

'Spell-binding, full of treasures and often extremely moving.' —
Selina Hastings
'A series of beautifully rendered evocations of landscape, people, attitudes, emblems and events. It treats the sweep of a melancholy history with the utmost poise and discernment.' —
Irish Times
'A wonderful excursion through history, illuminating more famous events of Anglo-Irish history through the delicious, inconsequential details of Simon Loftus's family.' —
Matthew Fort
'A powerfully evocative mixture of biography and legend, peppered with heart-warming and heart-wrenching anecdotes.' —
Financial Times
'Apart from the sheer enjoyment of Loftus's exhumations, his thoughts on the multiple uses of 'the memory of a past that never was' deserve to be pondered.' —
Times Literary Supplement
814 printed pages
Copyright owner
Original publication
Publication year
Daunt Books
Have you already read it? How did you like it?


  • edyzubyshared an impression6 months ago
    👍Worth reading


  • Tamara Alkhanishvilihas quoted9 years ago
    I found a ‘Receipt for a Person in Love’, scrawled in a tattered account book. A terrifying scandal emerged from the bottom of a deed box – exploding to life through the testimony of maidservants, tradesmen, wigmakers, doctors, assorted aristocrats and the victim himself. There were bills for ‘wonderfully fine soles and a monstrous large turbot’, and every necessity of life in a country house in Kilkenny at the beginning of the nineteenth century. And I discovered, to my amazement, that the most improbable stories were rooted in fact.

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