Amnesia - Michael Ridpath

**** Story with a predictable outcome, saved by a smart expedient towards its end

I immediately want to say that the final expedient has nothing to do with the plot. This is an idea that mixes fiction and reality, which I always appreciate a lot in novels. In this case it was able to increase my rating by one star.
The novel, for my taste, is not worth more than three.
But let’s proceed in an orderly fashion.
The book develops in two timelines. The one set in the present sees the young protagonist Clémence, who finds herself having to look after the eighty-three-year-old Alastair after the latter has lost his memory due to a fall. The one in the past is the book that the two of them are reading together and that tells some events of the man’s life when he was young, culminating in the death of the love of his life.
The part in the past is undoubtedly the best part of the whole novel. Here the characters come to life, also thanks to the evident greater familiarity that the author has in showing them through the point of view of a man. The story unfolds between France, Capri and then Scotland, and each place emerges from the pages with all its colours, involving the reader and giving them the impression of being there.
In contrast, the part set in the present (which is actually 1999) seems to be written by a novice author. The character of Clémence is two-dimensional. Her being overly naive and gullible appears unrealistic. Her reasoning seems a bit of a stretch to say the least. No person would arrive at certain conclusions, on which their decisions are then based, evidently driven by the need to bring the plot in a certain direction and not by logic. Moreover, the setting and the small number of characters, instead of contributing to the increase of the suspense and the claustrophobic sense of the narrative, end up highlighting the weakness in the characterisation of the same characters, which appear far too banal.
As for the crime at the core of the story, as much as the author strives to send us astray, in such a shamelessly obvious way, this has very little mystery. Just think about it for a moment and you realise that only one person can be the murderer: the only one who would gain an advantage from the death of Sophie. I never had any doubts about their identity and I found the fact that the other characters, especially Alastair, didn’t even think about it for a moment simply impossible to accept.
Towards the end we find some details that were not deductible from the rest of the plot and only for this reason I must say that I read it almost greedily. The narration of how the events rush to the resolution, together with the above-mentioned final expedient, save the book, but only because, in fact, they are at the end.
Finally, I found it a bit strange that they were talking about a novel in the novel, when, taking into account the length of the chapters read by the characters (which they said were the whole book), you can at most end up with a novelette. Yes, I understand the limited space in the book, but then they would have rather specify that some parts had been skipped (read by the characters and not reported, because not important) or that it was simply a long story.
Overall, however, it was an interesting read, if only because this novel has a certain originality in the way it was structured. I also realise that it is probably a rather hasty work, which the author enjoyed writing to develop an idea that had come to him, without any fancy of giving rise to a product of high literary level in the scope of thrillers. But, all things considered, despite its faults, it plays very well its entertaining purpose.


Amnesia on Amazon.

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