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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


paperback | Kindle | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


paperback | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)





Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


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Taylor, Sam: The Amnesiac

  Amazon  

4 stars

Reading Sam Taylor's The Amnesiac is like experiencing someone trying to remember a dream. The book's protagonist, James Purdew, who's just turned 30, realizes in a vague way that he's forgotten things. He starts having flashbacks--or perhaps he's had them all along and forgot--of events he otherwise doesn't remember. There are several years of his life that he can't account for in any clear way. He kept journals during that time but for some reason locked them away in a box to which he doesn't have the key, and which can only be opened otherwise by explosive. He starts to investigate his past, haltingly, because sometimes time just slips away from him. And various clues start to coalesce. Eventually he and the reader come to suspect that someone is playing with him, controlling the clues, engineering his rediscovery of his past or attempting to prevent it. And certainly at least one person is watching him: our omniscient narrator sometimes surprises us by alleging that he is actually in the scene he's describing.

Taylor's story is both ingenious and confusing. Having finished it, you'll find yourself rethinking the complex plot, trying to fit pieces of the story into the puzzle. The novel is just shy of 400 pages, not unusually long, and yet it's one of those books that seem to take an inordinately long time to read. I don't mean by this that the book is dull: it's not (except for one chapter towards the end, which purports to be a biography James is reading and which slows the story down considerably). Perhaps the feeling of slowness is due to the story's complexity, or because reading it one feels some of the frustration of the protagonist, for whom understanding is tantalizingly near but elusive.

The book, both detective story and gothic romance, is at the same time an exploration into the nature of memory. (Be sure to notice the disclaimer on the copyright page, the one that usually reads, "Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.") It is in fact the very sort of book that James imagines might be written about his predicament:

"Someone should write a true-to-life detective story, James thought bleakly; 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, 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."

As you can see, the author plays with blurring the boundaries between reality and text.

The Amnesiac is challenging and intriguing and would, I think, make a good film--part Memento, part Posession. It will be interesting to see if filmmakers show any interest in the book.

Comments

1.

This does sound good - very adventurous writing. I sometimes find books that take me a long time to read are, in the end, my favourites.

2.

Sounds like a very interesting read. I haven't read any of Sam Taylor and currently have a short list that isn't so short. But I think I will add it.

3.

Sounds good! I hope you like it. This is his first novel, I believe, so unless he's written non-fiction this should be it.

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