Rated Reads

The Amnesiac

by Sam Taylor

Rated: High

Not often does a book come along that is hard to put into some kind of box. It’s a mystery, it’s a thriller, it’s a gothic tale, sci-fi/fantasy, etc. In the case of Sam Taylor’s novel, it defies being neatly put into any of these neat genres. Indeed, each reader may see it differently once they have finished the tale.

Even so, it is probably impossible to finish reading this book and not be affected in some way. It’s thought-provoking, a little mind-bending; it stretches itself and the reader. The first third or more of the book ambles along a bit and then begins to pick up its pace, reeling in the perhaps casual reader and hooking him or her tightly as the story becomes more elaborate and even a bit confusing – some could even use the word “psychedelic” on parts.

The amnesiac of the title is a 30-year-old man named James Purdew who realizes that he can’t remember a period of three years of his life, when he was supposedly attending college. After breaking his leg and finding himself stuck in his apartment in Amsterdam for weeks on end, his thoughts start spiraling and luring him back to the missing chunk of his life. As soon as his leg is healed, he heads back to the town in England where it all happened — “it” being the real mystery. The details of that period of time are slowly, slowly revealed but don’t make much sense until the end of the book.

The Amnesiac is unforgettable and written with just the right touches of wit, romance and torturous self-examination. Its only drawback is its high rating.

Rated: High, primarily for language and some sexual content. There are just under 20 uses of very strong language, a handful of uses of moderate language, and five to ten uses of mild language. Sexual content involves the main character’s self-pleasuring (one instance) and a couple of brief fantasies involving some genital details.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 15 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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The Amnesiac