Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"The Amnesiac" by Sam Taylor

This is the best book I have read in a long time. I didn't have time to read it uninterrupted, but I was so eager to get back to it any time I was away. Reading this book felt delightfully like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Each puzzle piece I found snapped right in with the ones before, although I didn't have the box top photo as a guide and I had to wait as the big picture gradually came into view. There were a few times that I was handed a puzzle piece which at first didn't fit anywhere (namely, the main character's odd conversations with first the librarian and then the horoscope writer in the pub) but eventually even those pieces fit in snugly. And, surprisingly enough, when I found at the end of the book that I didn't have all the pieces to the puzzle and the picture was incomplete, rather than being disappointed and frustrated, I found I liked the book all the more.

Most times I am annoyed by books that are so vague that you basically have to write them yourself in your mind; not that I mind the work or the extra thought, but that I feel there is one "right answer" and I'm not certain I've hit upon it. But I did not mind the ambiguity in this book, and it is explained on page 327 as the main character muses, "Someone should write a true-to-life detective story... an existential mystery in which the answer is not to be found, clear and logical, at the book's end, but only to be glimpsed, or half-grasped, at various moments during its narrative; to be sensed throughout, like a nagging tune that you cannot quite remember, but never defined, never seen whole; to shift its shape and position and meaning with each passing day; to be sometimes forgotten completely, other times obsessed over, but never truly understood; not to be something walked towards but endlessly around." That is exactly what Sam Taylor has done with this book, and it works beautifully.

The book's plot reminded me of the concept of the movie Vanilla Sky. I was slightly disappointed at the sort of sci-fi explanation for the amnesia, but it was acceptable. Too, the recovered memories were somewhat of a letdown, as the build-up seemed to be towards something much more massive, but it was still a great read.

I am eager to re-read this book. I think it is one of those books that does not become boring for having its secrets revealed; I suspect it is a book that will reveal more secrets the second time around. I also plan to give a listen to the album "16 Lovers Lane" by The Go-Betweens, which I've never heard of but was frequently mentioned in the book. I wish I knew someone else who has read this book so I could discuss it with them! This would have been a great book for the First Saturday Book Club. I don't think Marshall would have wished this book were written in poem form. Oh, and this book, too, was only $3.97. Bonus!

8 comments:

Cym Lowell said...

I tweeted this review. Thanks for linking...http://twitter.com/cymlowell/status/14263270096

-CYM

*I am now a follower*

Allison said...

Interesting review! I might have to check this book out!
I am now a follower of yours!!!

Allison
http://allisonsatticblog.blogspot.com

jewelknits said...

This sounds wonderful! Thanks for the review!

Amanda said...

My pieces didn't fit together so well. I got the overall concept which was interesting, but there were so many curve balls that just didn't add up for me.
Plus, I spent the retail price of $14.00, so maybe I had higher expectations. ;)

Kathy said...

Since I started my book blog I have gradually become aware of the truth that book recommendations aren't one-size-fits-all. (I think I previously thought it was only my mom's book recommendations that wouldn't work for me.) ;) But even with that realization I was still hanging on to this one . . .

I really do want to re-read it to refresh my memory and see if I can answer your questions.

Amanda said...

My copy got snagged in PBS, but I would like to try one of his other books. I have gotten back into reading more recently and I am combing your site for ideas!! :)

Kathy said...

I'm rereading this one again right now. Still a favorite. :) But they're all great . . . he's also had some good translations over the past few years!

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