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The Amnesiac

The Amnesiac

3.4 7
by Sam Taylor

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A gripping literary thriller from an exciting new voice in fiction

Hailed as ?one to watch ? by the UK?s Telegraph, Sam Taylor is one of the most imaginative and innovative young writers at work today. With The Amnesiac, his United States debut, he incorporates a murder mystery and a forgotten manuscript into an exhilarating and intelligent


A gripping literary thriller from an exciting new voice in fiction

Hailed as ?one to watch ? by the UK?s Telegraph, Sam Taylor is one of the most imaginative and innovative young writers at work today. With The Amnesiac, his United States debut, he incorporates a murder mystery and a forgotten manuscript into an exhilarating and intelligent novel. When twenty-nine-year-old James Purdew returns to England from his home in Amsterdam, it is to discover what happened during three earlier years of his life that he cannot recall. What he finds, in an old house with a tragic history, is a nineteenth-century manuscript that begins to seem less and less like a work of fiction?and more like the key to his own lost past. Memory and amnesia, fiction and reality, destiny and randomness, heaven and hell?all converge to form an engrossing gothic story that is sure to appeal to fans of Carlos Ruiz Zafon?s The Shadow of the Wind.

Editorial Reviews

Telegraph (UK)
Illusory and transfixing . . . a tender triumph.
Observer (UK)
An accomplished and entertaining read.
Sunday Express (London)
A clever, beautifully written examination of memory and the tricks it can play.
Publishers Weekly

British author Taylor (The Republic of Trees) makes his U.S. debut with a complex work of metafiction that will resonate with Jorge Luis Borges fans. James Purdew, a 30-year-old unemployed Englishman living in Amsterdam, suffers an identity crisis after tripping on the stairs to the apartment he shares with his Dutch girlfriend, Ingrid, and breaking his ankle. After Ingrid leaves him, Purdew rereads his journals and decides to write his life story backwards, beginning with Ingrid. He believes the project, titled Memoirs of an Amnesiac, will help him find his "way out of the labyrinth." To complicate matters, after returning to the U.K. and finding work in construction, Purdew discovers a 19th-century manuscript titled Confessions of a Killer hidden in a wall of a flat he's renovating. A fine stylist, Taylor keeps a lot of balls in the air, but all the philosophizing tends to slow a narrative that offers plenty of mystery but not enough resolution. (July)

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Kirkus Reviews
Taylor (The Republic of Trees, 2005, etc.) explores the complexities and meaning of memory in this psychological thriller. When James Purdew breaks his leg in an accident, he is laid up for weeks-enough down time to begin thinking about his past and reconsidering his present. James is obsessed with three years of his life he cannot remember. Determined to fill these gaps in memory that increasingly disturb him, he breaks up with his Dutch girlfriend and moves back to his college town in England. There, he begins work repairing an old student house for an anonymous landlord and becomes deeply involved in the search for his own past. As he peels paint from the walls, he continually discovers missing links to his past-a discarded manuscript, a song in his head, a disarming roommate-and the mysterious source of his current anguish begins to reveal itself. The story is slow to get going, but it becomes thoroughly engrossing throughout the middle sections. The denouement borrows heavily from the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (the book opens with a Borges quote and references him ad nauseam) and films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and it unfortunately feels rather unoriginal, despite the labyrinthine construction. James is too plodding to be truly engaging, but perhaps this is because he is not meant to be his own character, but rather to represent universal man struggling with existential concerns. Part murder mystery, the story delves into the abyss of human memory and explores heaven and hell, as well as hope and fear, as two sides of the same coin. An emulous theme wrapped in a lumbering package. Agent: Jason Cooper/Faber UK

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.80(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Sam Taylor was born in 1970 and grew up in Nottinghamshire, UK. For eight years, Taylor worked as a journalist for the Observer.

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Amnesiac 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kenny Janus More than 1 year ago
I spent much of my time hurrying through parts that seemed to have no purpose in the story only to find that few if any of my questions were properly explained.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Thomas De Quincey wrote, '...All-powerful memory is able to exhume any impression, no matter how momentary it might have been, if given sufficient stimulus.' But just how much stimulus is necessary to recoup three years of lost memory? And how accurate will those memories be as they are restored piece by piece, clue by clue? When all is said and done, what will it mean to the identity of James Purdew? Is he really willing to face what he thinks he seeks in this blank period of his so far meaningless life? By his own description, this wandering, lost soul named James Purdew is looking back on his life as a 'self-destructive party animal, the boring, self-righteous sub-editor, the depressed English supporter' and more in order to fill an existentialist gaping hole in his life that swings him toward alternating feelings of intense, almost maniac happiness and sadness. Breaking up with the love of his life, Ingrid, he is determined finally to return to the city of H in England to see if there is a past link that connects to the briefest of flashback memories terrorizing his psyche. Memoirs of an Amnesiac is a text James finds that leads him to write his own memoirs - backward - in an effort to stimulate his search. Hired by an anonymous employer to restore an old house on the familiar Lough Street, who might or might not be a former acquaintance, James finds an account entitled Confessions of a Killer as well as later coming upon a philosophy text that seem strangely similar to some vague thoughts and feelings he knows he has lived. James will also undergo traumatic meetings with a psychologist, neurologist and other unsavory characters who will bring him closer than ever to the devastating truth. Words cannot possibly convey the intelligence, wit, twists and turns of this most memorable work of contemporary fiction that defies classification as mystery, thriller, literary account, psychological and philosophical treatise or fictional memoir. The Amnesiac is a brilliant, creative, superbly-crafted, thrilling work of fiction sure to delight those who love a good murder mystery, near sci-fi futuristic tale or fiction that yields a unique life perspective. Sam Taylor is a master artist who deserves the highest praise for this unusual, novel approach to writing fiction! Stunning! Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on July 3, 2008
harstan More than 1 year ago
English expatriate James Purdew lives with his Dutch girlfriend Ingrid in Amsterdam. , The day before he turns thirty, James is climbing up the stairs in their apartment worried about a seemingly few seconds blackout he just suffered when he hears the phone shrilling. He rushes up the remaining stairs, but misses a step, trips and breaks his ankle. Soon afterward Ingrid walks out on him as he wears a plaster-cast.------------ Purdew has had some recall lapses so he keeps a journal and begins to read his last entries. He decides to fill the memory gaps of three years ago by writing his Memoirs of an Amnesiac working from the present back a few years. He also goes home to Great Britain where he obtains work on a house renovation project hoping to remember. There he finds a nineteenth century Confessions of a Killer hidden inside a wall.----------- THE AMNESIAC is an engaging character study starring a fascinating protagonist whose slowly recalling what he forgot and why his brain ¿erased¿ the memory. Readers will want to know what caused Purdew to go blank. The story line is fast-paced overall as James begins to learn the truth about himself and the manuscript he discovered, but when he turns reflective he slows down the proceedings. Still fans who appreciate a character driven thriller will want to read Sam Taylor¿s insightful look an amnesia victim trying to remember.------------ Harriet Klausner