Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Amnesiac

The Amnesiac
Author: Sam Taylor
Publisher: Allen and Unwin

It is not often that I will give up and not read a book through to its conclusion. Similarly, it is not often that I loathed a book so much that I struggle to find something positive to say about it. After all, it is a major feat to have written a book, find a publisher and have your work make it to print. But when it comes to Sam Taylor’s second novel “The Amnesiac” I was compelled to do both.

Described on the cover as “a journey into the labyrinth of the human mind, The Amnesiac is a dazzling multilayered mystery by one of Britain’s most innovative young writers” it is the story of James Purdew, an Englishman living in Amsterdam with his Dutch girlfriend. In one steamy hot summer James breaks his leg and is confined to his flat where he begins to reflect on his life, his crumbling relationship with Ingrid and the three years he spent at university of which he cannot recall. A thread of a song haunts his mind, the entirety of which James believes will unlock the mysteries in his head so he returns to his University town searching for answers.

In the one hundred pages I managed of this book before boredom and annoyance overtook me, I was not once dazzled or intrigued. The writing was flat and uninspired and at times, just plain lazy. It seemed to be a never ending loop of soul-searching, memories always just out of reach and detailed descriptions of how James spent his days. Character and plot development were almost laughably absent.

When I finally threw the book down in total frustration I can honestly say I did not give two hoots about James, his life or whether or not he recovered his missing memories, even as the story began to hint at them being dark and deadly sinister. And you just know an author has problems when the reader doesn’t care for the protagonist.

Maybe Sam Taylor was guilty of the “second book syndrome” many authors fall into when he wrote “The Amnesiac”, when inspiration is an elusive concept and the writing becomes almost mechanical to meet the publishers deadline. His first novel certainly earned him praise by the bucket load. The same certainly cannot be said for his sophomore effort (although it does have a very pretty cover image.) A great read for anyone needing to cure insomnia otherwise I wouldn’t waste my time or braincells.

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