Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Book Review - The Man Without A Shadow - Joyce Carol Oates

“Laughter too depends upon memory—a memory of previous laughter.” 

The Man Without A Shadow follows Margot Sharpe, a neuroscientist studying Elihu Hoopes, an amnesia patient who can only retain new information for 70 seconds. Hoopes' deep loneliness, and secret childhood trauma, draws Margot in. He becomes much more to her than a subject of study.

I'm going to be blunt. I hated this book. When I picked it up and read the blurb I thought it would be something totally different, I thought we would delve into the mystery of Eli's recurring dreams of a young girl's dead body floating in a lake. I thought that would be the main plot at least; I was wrong.

The Man Without a Shadow is about a deluded but very smart woman, Margot Sharpe, who falls in love with both her boss and then Eli Hoopes. The book is written primarily from her point of view, and because I couldn't get over the fact that she was a moron I couldn't connect with her, and therefore the story. 

I can't say I am a big fan for romance novels as it is, I think they need to be secondary to the plot and not the whole thing, but when one of the duo in love is completely deluded about the 'romance' then I really can't get on board. This is a woman who has studied the brain and amnesia her whole life, and knows that Eli cannot retain any memory after his trauma that passes 70 seconds. She knows this, but still lets her deep loneliness let her believe that he does know her, and does love her. She makes him believe that they are married, she convinces herself that, although she is in her 50s at this point, she is pregnant with his child. I couldn't even feel sorry for her, because unlike Eli her loneliness is self-inflicted. She puts all her time into work, neglecting her deathly ill mother, and believing she is too much better than her colleagues to make friends. To me this wasn't a tragic love story, but a story of a woman who, though says she thinks being female makes her weaker, falls into the same trope of obsessive love. 

I found it a real chore to finish this book, but I promised myself I would. Oates' writing is also really hard to get on board with, she has a style that often repeats exact phrases that have been said not that long before. At first I thought perhaps this was to make us understand what it would be like working with a patient of severe amnesia, but after a while the effect just annoyed me.

I didn't enjoy this book, and therefore only give it 1/5. I know there would be some out there that would enjoy this tragic love story, but sadly I can't say that I am one of them.

Have you read the man without a shadow? What did you think? Was it a tragic love story, or a book about an idiot? Let me know in your comments below. 

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