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I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death: The Breathtaking Number One Bestseller (English Edition) Format Kindle
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AS FEATURED ON DESERT ISLAND DISCS, BIG SCOTTISH BOOK CLUB AND THE ZOE BALL BOOKCLUB, A BOOK OF THE YEAR IN THE SUNDAY TIMES, THE TIMES, GUARDIAN, IRISH TIMES, OBSERVER, RED and THE TELEGRAPH.
*SHORTLISTED FOR THE PEN ACKERLEY PRIZE FOR MEMOIR AND AUTOBIOGRAPHY 2018*
I AM, I AM, I AM is a memoir with a difference - the unputdownable story of an extraordinary woman's life in near-death experiences. Insightful, inspirational, gorgeously written, it is a book to be read at a sitting, a story you finish newly conscious of life's fragility, determined to make every heartbeat count.
A childhood illness she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. A terrifying encounter on a remote path. A mismanaged labour in an understaffed hospital. Shocking, electric, unforgettable, this is the extraordinary memoir from Costa Novel-Award winner and Sunday Timesbestselling author Maggie O'Farrell. It is a book to make you question yourself. What would you do if your life was in danger, and what would you stand to lose?
Description du produit
I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
On the path ahead, stepping out from behind a boulder, a man appears. We are, he and I, on the far side of a dark tarn that lies hidden in the bowl-curved summit of this mountain. The sky is a milky blue above us; no vegetation grows this far up so it is just me and him, the stones and the still black water. He straddles the narrow track with both booted feet and he smiles.
I realise several things. That I passed him earlier, farther down the glen. We greeted each other, in the amiable yet brief manner of those on a country walk. That, on this remote stretch of path, there is no one near enough to hear me call. That he has been waiting for me: he has planned this whole thing, carefully, meticulously, and I have walked into his trap.
I see all this, in an instant.
This day—a day on which I nearly die—began early for me, just after dawn, my alarm clock leaping into a rattling dance beside the bed. I had to pull on my uniform, leave the caravan and tiptoe down some stone steps into a deserted kitchen, where I flicked on the ovens, the coffee machines, the toasters, where I sliced five large loaves of bread, filled the kettles, folded forty paper napkins into open-petalled orchids.
I have just turned eighteen, and I have pulled off an escape. From everything: home, school, parents, exams, the waiting for results. I have found a job, far away from everyone I know, in what is advertised as a “holistic, alternative retreat” at the base of a mountain.
I serve breakfast, I clear away breakfast, I wipe tables, I remind guests to leave their keys. I go into the rooms, I make the beds, I change the sheets, I tidy. I pick up clothes and towels and books and shoes and essential oils and meditation mats from the floor. I learn, from the narratives inherent in possessions left strewn around the bedrooms, that people are not always what they seem. The rather sententious, exacting man who insists on a specific table, certain soap, an entirely fat-free milk has a penchant for cloud-soft cashmere socks and exuberantly patterned silk underwear. The woman who sits at dinner with her precisely buttoned blouse and lowered eyelids and growing-out perm has a nocturnal avatar who will don S&M outfits of an equestrian bent: human bridles, tiny leather saddles, a slender but vicious silver whip. The couple from London, who seem wonderingly, enviably perfect—they hold manicured hands over dinner, they take laughing walks at dusk, they show me photos of their wedding—have a room steeped in sadness, in hope, in grief. Ovulation kits clutter their bathroom shelves. Fertility drugs are stacked on their nightstands. These I don’t touch, as if to impart the message, I didn’t see this, I am not aware, I know nothing.
All morning, I sift and organise and ease the lives of others. I clear away human traces, erasing all evidence that they have eaten, slept, made love, argued, washed, worn clothes, read newspapers, shed hair and skin and bristle and blood and toenails. I dust, I walk the corridors, trailing the vacuum cleaner behind me on a long leash. Then, around lunchtime, if I’m lucky, I have four hours before the evening shift to do whatever I want.
So I have walked up to the lake, as I often do during my time off, and today, for some reason, I have decided to take the path right around to the other side. Why? I forget. Maybe I finished my tasks earlier that day, maybe the guests had been less untidy than usual and I’d got out of the guesthouse before time. Maybe the clear, sun-bright weather has lured me from my usual path.
I have also had no reason, at this point in my life, to distrust the countryside. I have been to self-defence lessons, held at the community centre in the small Scottish seaside town where I spent my teens. The teacher, a barrel-shaped man in a judo suit, would put scenarios to us with startling Gothic relish. Late at night and you’re coming out of a pub, he would say, eyeing us one by one from beneath his excessively sprouting eyebrows, and a huge bloke lunges out from an alleyway and grabs you. Or: you’re in a narrow corridor in a nightclub and some drunk shoves you up against a wall. Or: it’s dark, it’s foggy, you’re waiting at the traffic lights and someone seizes your bag strap and pushes you to the ground. These narratives of peril always ended with the same question, put to us with slightly gloating rhetoric: so, what do you do?
We practised reversing our elbows into the throats of our imaginary assailants, rolling our eyes as we did so because we were, after all, teenage girls. We took it in turns to rehearse the loudest shout we could. We repeated, dutifully, dully, the weak points in a male body: eye, nose, throat, groin, knee. We believed we had it covered, that we could take on the lurking stranger, the drunk assailant, the bag-snatching mugger. We were sure we’d be able to break their grip, bring up our knee, scratch at their eyes with our nails; we reckoned we could find an exit out of these alarming yet oddly thrilling synopses. We were taught to make noise, to attract attention, to yell, POLICE. We also, I think, imbibed a clear message. Alleyway, nightclub, pub, bus-stop, traffic lights: the danger was urban. In the country, or in rural towns like ours—where there were no nightclubs, no alleyways and no traffic lights, even—things like this did not happen. We were free to do as we pleased.
And yet here is this man, high up a mountain, blocking my way, waiting for me.
It seems important not to show my fear, to play along. So I keep walking, keep putting one foot in front of the other. If I turn and run, he could catch up with me in seconds and there would be something so exposing, so final about running. It would uncover to us both what this situation is; it would bring things to a head. The only option seems to be to carry on, to pretend that this is perfectly normal.
“Hello again,” he says to me, and his gaze slides over my face, my body, my bare, muddy legs. It is a glance more assessing than lascivious, more calculating than lustful: it is the look of a man working something out, planning the logistics of a deed.
I cannot meet his gaze, I cannot look at him directly, not quite, but I am aware of narrow-set eyes, a considerable height, ivory-coloured incisors, fists gripping his rucksack straps. I have to clear my throat to say, “Hi.” I think I nod. I turn myself sideways so as to step past him: a sharp mix of fresh sweat, leather from his rucksack, some kind of chemical-heavy shaving oil that seems distantly familiar.
I am past him, I am walking away, the path is open before me. He has, I note, chosen for his ambush the apex of the hike: I have climbed and climbed, and it is at this point that I will start to descend the mountain, to my guesthouse, to my evening shift, to work, to life. It’s all downhill from here.
I am careful to use strides that are confident, purposeful, but not frightened. I am not frightened: I say this to myself, over the oceanic roar of my pulse. Perhaps, I think, I am free, perhaps I have misread the situation. Perhaps it’s perfectly normal to lie in wait for young girls on remote paths and then let them go.
I am eighteen. Just. I know almost nothing.
I do know, though, that he is right behind me. I can hear the tread of his boots, the swishing movement of his trouser fabric—some kind of breathable, all-weather affair.
And here he is again, falling into step beside me. He walks closely, intimately, his arm at my shoulder, the way a friend might, the way I walked home from school with classmates.
“Lovely day,” he says, looking into my face. I keep my head bowed. “Yes,” I say, “it is.” “Very hot. I might go for a swim.” There is something peculiar about his diction, I realise,
as we tread the path together with rapid, synchronised steps. His words halt mid-syllable; his rs are soft, his ts over-enunciated, his tone flat, almost expressionless. Maybe he’s slightly “touched,” as the expression goes, like the man who used to live down the road from us. He hadn’t thrown anything out since the war and his front garden was overrun, like Sleeping Beauty’s castle, with ivy. We used to try to guess what some of the leaf-draped objects were: a car, a fence, a motorbike? He wore knitted hats and patterned tank tops and too-small once-smart suits that were coated with cat-hair. If it was raining, he slung a bin liner over his shoulders. Sometimes he would come to our door with a zipped bag full of kittens for us to play with; other times he would be drunk, livid, wild- eyed and ranting about lost postcards, and my mother would have to take him by the arm and lead him home. “Stay there,” she would say to us, “I’ll be back in a tick,” and she’d be off down the pavement with him.
Maybe, I think, with a flood of relief, that’s all this means. This man might be like our old neighbour: eccentric, different, now long dead, his house cleared and sanitised, the ivy hacked down and burnt. Perhaps I should be kind, as my mother was. I should be compassionate.
I turn to him then, as we walk together, in rapid step, beside the lake. I even smile.
“A swim,” I say. “That sounds nice.”
He answers by putting his binocular strap around my neck.
A day or so later, I walk into the police station in the nearby town. I wait in line with people reporting lost wallets, stray dogs, scraped cars.
The policeman at the desk listens, head cocked to the side. “Did he hurt you?” is his first question. “This man, did he touch you, hit you, proposition you? Did he do or say anything improper?”
“No,” I say, “not exactly, but—” “But what?” “He would have done,” I say. “He was going to.” The man looks me up and down. I’m wearing patched
cut-offs, numerous silver hoops through the cartilage of my ears, tattered sneakers, a T-shirt with a picture of a dodo and the words “Have you seen this bird?” on it. I have a mane—there isn’t really any other word to describe it—of wild hair into which a guest, a serene-faced Dutch woman, who had travelled to the guesthouse with her harp and a felting kit, has woven beads and feathers. I look like what I am: a teenager who has been living alone for the first time, in a caravan, in a forest, in the middle of nowhere.
“So,” the policeman says, leaning heavily on his papers, “you went for a walk, you met a man, you walked with him, he was a bit peculiar, but then you got home okay. Is that what you’re telling me?”
“He put,” I say, “the strap of his binoculars around my neck.”
“And then what?”
“He . . .” I stop. I hate this man with his thick eyebrows, his beery paunch, his impatient stubby fingers. I hate him more, perhaps, than the man beside the tarn. “He showed me some ducks on the lake.”
The policeman doesn’t even try to hide his smile. “Right,” he says, and shuts his book with a snap. “Sounds terrifying.”
How should I have articulated to this policeman that I could sense the urge for violence radiating off the man, like heat off a stone? I have been over and over that moment at the desk in the police station, asking myself, was there anything I could have done differently, anything I might have said that would have changed what happened next?
I could have said: I want to see your supervisor, I want to see the person in charge. I would do this now, age forty-three, but then? It didn’t occur to me it was possible.
I could have said: Listen to me, that man didn’t hurt me but he will hurt someone else. Please find him before he does.
I could have said that I have an instinct for the onset of violence. That, for a long time, I seemed to incite it in others for reasons I never quite understood. If, as a child, you are struck or hit, you will never forget that sense of your own powerlessness and vulnerability, of how a situation can turn from benign to brutal in the blink of an eye, in the space of a breath. That sensibility will run in your veins, like an antibody. You learn fairly quickly to recognise the approach of these sudden acts against you: that particular pitch or vibration in the atmosphere. You develop antennae for violence and, in turn, you devise a repertoire of means to divert it.
The school I went to seemed steeped in it. The threat, like smoke, filled the corridors, the halls, the classrooms, the aisles between desks. Heads were smacked, ears were gripped, chalk dusters were thrown, with smarting accuracy; one teacher had the habit of picking up kids he didn’t like by the waistbands of their trousers and launching them at the walls. I can still recall the sound of child cranium hitting Victorian tile.
For the worst offences, boys were sent to the headmistress, where they were given the cane. Girls got the dap. I used to look at my daps—those black canvas shoes with a horseshoe of elastic across the front that we were made to wear when climbing over gym horses—and in particular their greyish rippled soles and imagine the impact: rubber on exposed flesh.
The headmistress was an object of awed fear. Her sinewy neck and bird-claw hands. Her scarves skewered to sweaters with a silver pin. Her office with its dark walls and wine-coloured rug. If called there to demonstrate skills with coded reading books, I would look down at this rug and picture having to stand there, my skirt pulled up, awaiting my fate, bracing myself for the blow.
It filtered down to the pupils, of course. Chinese burns were particularly popular, when the skin of your forearm could be wrung like a damp cloth into vivid ellipses. Hairpulling, toe-crushing, head-locking, finger-twisting: there was a large and ever-expanding range at the bullies’ disposal. I had the misfortune of not speaking with a local accent, of being able to read before I got there, of having an appearance that, I was informed, was abnormal, offensive, unacceptable in some way, of wearing skirts that had been taken up and let down too many times, of being sickly and missing large chunks of school, of stammering whenever called on to speak, of having shoes that weren’t patent leather and so on. I remember a boy in my class trapping me behind the brick shelter and wordlessly yanking me up by the straps of my sundress until they cut into my underarms. He and I never referred to this incident again. I remember an older girl with a glossy dark fringe materialising from the playtime crowd to grind my face into the bark of a tree. In my first term at comprehensive school, in the middle of a chemistry lesson, I was punched in the face by a twelve-year-old skinhead. If I probe my upper lip with the tip of my tongue, I can still feel the scar.
So, when the man put the binocular strap around my neck, even though he was saying something about wanting to show me a flock of eider ducks, I knew what came next. I could smell it, I could almost see it there, thickening and glittering in the air between us. This man was just another in a long line of bullies who had taken exception to my accent or my shoes or godknowswhat—I had long since stopped caring—and he was going to hurt me. He meant to inflict harm, rain it down on my head, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I decided I must play along with the birdwatching game. I knew that this was my only hope. You can’t confront a bully; you can’t call them out; you can’t let them know that you know, that you see them for what they are.
I glanced through the binoculars for the length of a single heartbeat. Oh, I said, eider ducks, goodness, and I ducked down and away, out of the circle of that strap. He came after me, of course he did, with that length of black leather, intending to lasso me again, but by this time I was facing him, I was smiling at him, gabbling about eider ducks and how interesting they were, did eiderdowns used to be made of them, is that where the name came from, were they filled with eider-duck feathers? They were? How fascinating. Tell me more, tell me everything you know about ducks, about birds, about birdwatching, goodness, how knowledgeable you are, you must go birdwatching a lot. You do? Tell me some more about it, about the most unusual bird you’ve ever seen, tell me while we walk because is that the time, I really must be going now, down the hill, because I have to start my shift, yes, I work just there—you see those chimneys? That’s the place. It’s quite close, isn’t it? There will be people waiting for me. Sometimes if I’m late they’ll come out to look for me, yes, my boss, he’ll be waiting. He walks up here all the time too, all the staff do, he knows I’m out here, he certainly does, he knows exactly where, I told him myself, he’ll be out looking for me any minute now, he’ll be just around that corner. Sure, we can walk this way, and while we do, why don’t you tell me some more about birdwatching, yes, please, I’d like that but I really must rush because they are waiting.
Two weeks later, a police car drives up the winding track to the guesthouse and two people get out. I see them from an upper window, where I’m wrestling pillows into their cases. I know straight away what they are doing here, why they have come, so even before I hear someone calling my name, I am walking down the stairs to meet them.
These two are nothing like the policeman at the station. They are in suits, their demeanours serious, focused. They proffer badges and documents to my boss, Vincent, with faces that are still with practised, skilled neutrality.
They want to talk to me in private so Vincent shows them into an unoccupied room. He comes in with us because he is a good man and I am only a few years older than his own children, whose cries and shouts can be heard from the back lawn.
I sit on a bed I made that morning, and the policeman sits at an ornamental wicker table where some guests like to take their morning tea; the policewoman seats herself next to me on the bed.
Vincent hovers in the background, muttering mistrustfully, pretending to adjust a crystal hanging at the window, to wipe non-existent dust off the mantelpiece, to rattle the fire-irons in the grate. He is a former flower child, a Haight-Ashbury survivor, and has a low opinion of what he calls “the fuzz.”
The police ignore him, in a polite but preoccupied way. They are interested, the woman tells me, in a man I encountered recently on a walk. Would I be able to tell them exactly what happened?
So I do. I start at the beginning, describing how I passed him early on the hike, how he headed off in the opposite direction, then somehow appeared ahead of me. “I don’t know how he did that,” I say, “because there isn’t a short-cut, or not one that I know of.” They nod and nod, listening with a measured intensity, encouraging me to go on. Their eyes never leave my face: I have their absolute attention. When I get to the part about the binoculars strap, they stop nodding. They stare at me, both of them, their eyes unblinking. It is a strange, congested moment. I don’t think any of us breathes.
“A binoculars strap?” the man asks.
“Yes,” I say. “And he put it around your neck?” I nod. They look away, look down; the woman makes a note of something in her book. Would I be willing, she asks, as she hands me a folder, to take a look at some photographs and let them know if I see him there?
At this point, my boss interrupts. He can’t not. “You don’t have to say anything, you know, you don’t. She doesn’t have to say anything.”
The policewoman is putting up her hand to silence him, just as I am placing my index finger on a photograph.
“That’s him,” I say.
The detectives look. The woman notes something again in her book. The man thanks me; he takes the folder.
“He killed someone,” I say to them, “didn’t he?” They exchange an unreadable glance but say nothing. “He strangled someone. With his binoculars strap.” I look from one to the other and we know, we all know. “Didn’t he?”
From across the room, Vincent swears softly. Then he walks over and gives me his handkerchief.
The girl who died was twenty-two. She was from New Zealand and was backpacking around Europe with her boyfriend. He was unwell that day so had stayed behind at their hostel while she went off on a hike, alone. She was raped, strangled, then buried in a shallow pit. Her body was discovered three days later, not far from the path where I had been walking.
I only know all this because I read about it in the local newspaper the following week: the police wouldn’t tell me. I saw a headline in a newsagent’s window, went in to buy a paper, and there was her face, looking out at me from the front page. She had light-coloured hair, held back in a band, a freckled face, a wide, guileless smile.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I think about her, if not every day then most days. I am aware of her life, which was cut off, curtailed, snipped short, whereas mine, for whatever reason, was allowed to run on.
I never knew if they caught him, if he was convicted, sentenced, imprisoned. I had the distinct feeling, during the interview, that those detectives were on to him, that they had him, that they just needed my corroboration. Maybe the DNA samples were incontrovertible. Maybe he confessed. Maybe there were other witnesses, other victims, other near-misses, who gave evidence in court: I was never asked and was too green or, I suspect, too shocked to pursue the matter, to call the police and say, what happened, did you catch him, has he been put away? I left the area not long afterwards so can never be certain. All this happened long before a time of ubiquitous and instantly available news. I can find no sign, no trace of this crime on the internet, despite numerous searches.
I don’t know why he spared me but not her. Did she panic? Did she try to run? Did she scream? Did she make the mistake of alerting him to the monster he was?
For a long time, I dreamt about the man on the path. He would appear in a variety of disguises, but always with his rucksack and binoculars. Sometimes, in the murk and confusion of a dream, I would recognise him only by these accoutrements and I would think, oh, it’s you again, is it? You’ve come back?
It is a story difficult to put into words, this. I never tell it, in fact, or never have before. I told no one at the time, not my friends, not my family: there seemed no way to translate what had happened into grammar and syntax. I have, now I think about it, only ever told one person, and that was the man I would eventually marry, and it only came out years after we first met. I told him one evening in Chile, as we sat together in the refectory of a travellers’ hostel. The expression on his face was one of such deep, visceral shock that I knew I would probably never tell it again, verbally, in my lifetime.
What happened to that girl, and what so nearly happened to me, is not something to be lightly articulated, moulded into anecdote, formed into a familiar spoken groove to be told and retold over a dinner table or on the telephone, passed from teller to teller. It is instead a tale of horror, of evil, of our worst imaginings. It is a story to be kept battened down in some wordless, unvisited dark place. Death brushed past me on that path, so close that I could feel its touch, but it seized that other girl and thrust her under.
I still cannot bear anyone to touch my neck: not my husband, not my children, not a kindly doctor, who once wanted to check my tonsils. I flinch away before I even register why. I can’t wear anything around it. Scarves, polo necks, choker necklaces, any top or blouse that applies pressure there: none of these will ever be for me.
My daughter recently pointed to the top of a hill, seen on our walk to school.
“Can we go up there?” “Sure,” I said, glancing up at the green summit. “Just you and me?” I was silent for a moment. “We can all go,” I said. “The whole family.” Alert as ever to the moods of others, she immediately caught the sense that I was holding something back. “Why not just you and me?”
“Because . . . everyone else would like to come too.” “But why not you and me?” Because, I was thinking, because I cannot begin to say.
Because I cannot articulate what dangers lie around corners for you, around twisting paths, around boulders, in the tangles of forests. Because you are six years old. Because there are people out there who want to hurt you and you will never know why. Because I haven’t yet worked out how to explain these things to you. But I will.--Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
Revue de presse
Maggie O'Farrell is a highly accomplished author with seven novels to her name but she achieves something altogether more powerful and direct in this astonishing memoir... Each chapter is an accomplished piece of memoir writing in its own right. The cumulative effect is extraordinary and I felt my understanding of what it means to be a human and a mother grew. Where other writers may be playing with paper, O'Farrell takes up a bow and arrow and aims right at the human heart (Cathy Rentzenbrink The Times)
I have never read a book about death that has made me feel so alive. A heart-stopping, addictive read (Tracy Chevalier)
I adored every minute. A triumph (Joanna Cannon)
Extraordinary. A beautiful testament to courage and grace under fire without an ounce of self-pity (Kate Mosse)
It is absolutely, in every possible sense of the word, brilliant. It shines with wit and candour and insight. It is spectacularly moving, funny, impeccably controlled, artful and sincere. It's a gift (Max Porter)
By turns chilling, terrifying, deeply moving, funny, recognisable, wild, simple, complicated. A rich celebration (Rachel Joyce)
Quite simply astonishing... reminds the reader of the fierce joy of being alive. To my mind, I AM, I AM, I AM is Maggie O'Farrell's greatest work to date (Louise O'Neill)
The final chapter is one of the boldest and most terrifying things I have read this year (Scotsman)
She is a breathtakingly good writer, and brings all her elegance and poise as a novelist to the story of her own life (Guardian)
Leaves the reader feeling breathless, grateful and fully alive. Maggie O'Farrell is a miracle in every sense. I will never forget this book (Ann Patchett)
[An] extraordinary memoir... uncomfortable and compelling... fluent, poised, packed with colourful details (Observer)
A mystical howl, a thrumming, piercing reminder of how very closely we all exist alongside what could have happened, but didn't (New York Times Book Review)
It's a prayer for perspective that reminds readers to see every dodged bullet as the gift of new life and a reminder not to sweat the small stuff (Daily Mail)
A profoundly affecting, powerful and life-affirming book. If you only read one memoir this year, make it O'Farrell's (Sunday Express)
O'Farrell has a compelling and arresting writing style that fills in a scene quickly and engagingly, to great dramatic and narrative effect (New Statesman)
Exceptionally accomplished and emotionally sophisticated (Scotsman)
One of the most life affirming reads of the summer (Irish Independent)
I can count on one hand the books that made me cry, and still have two fingers spare. I Am, I Am, I Am is one of them (Irish Times)
O'Farrell's emotional acuity makes it a powerful account of a determined and thoughtful life. Her fiction is always a masterclass in empathy and the same is true of I Am, I Am, I Am which lingers even longer in the memory for being drawn from real life. (Daily Express)
A remarkable and life-affirming autobiography (Good Housekeeping)
I have never read a book about death that has made me feel so alive. Beautifully observed, exquisitely written, Maggie's memoir is a heart-stopping, addictive read. She has raised the bar on memoir to a height few others will reach (Tracy Chevalier)
A beautiful, strangely reassuring read (The i)
I AM, I AM, I AM is a gripping and glorious investigation of death that leaves the reader feeling breathless, grateful, and fully alive. Maggie O'Farrell is a miracle in every sense. I will never forget this book (Ann Patchett)
A remarkable book (Scotsman)
It's a memoir replete with courage, heartbreak and optimism: the most life-affirming book of the year (Sunday Express)
A mesmerising read (The Sunday Times) --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition paperback.
Détails sur le produit
- ASIN : B06XRYBXPS
- Éditeur : Tinder Press (22 août 2017)
- Langue : Anglais
- Taille du fichier : 920 KB
- Synthèse vocale : Activée
- Lecteur d’écran : Pris en charge
- Confort de lecture : Activé
- X-Ray : Activé
- Word Wise : Activé
- Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 305 pages
- Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon : 5,166 en Boutique Kindle (Voir les 100 premiers en Boutique Kindle)
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At Hay, O'Farrell said that she thinks 'chronology is a tryranny' and this is evident in her two books I've read so far (clearly I'm working my way through the rest now). She has a real gift for telling a story in episodes out of chronological order, and she trusts her reader to fill in the gaps more than any other writer I've come across.
I don't often read memoirs (there are so many fiction books I want to read first) but I Am, I Am, I Am is well worth making an exception for. And I am convinced that Maggie O'Farrell's survival instinct, which seems at times to rely heavily on an abnormally high level of empathy, is instrinsically linked to her astonishing talent as a novelist.
O’Farrell has divided each potential encounter with not being, by time, and by the part of the body or psyche where vulnerability struck.
Perhaps it is the large number of close shaves, of different kinds, which have made her fiercely embrace her ‘I Am’
The first near brush is a horrible encounter, as a young woman on a holiday job, with someone later convicted of murdering young women. Some kind of instinct took Farrell to take exactly the right kind of evasive action which kept her safe:
“I could have said that I have an instinct for the onset of violence. That, for a long time, I seemed to incite it in others for reasons I never quite understood. If, as a child, you are struck or hit, you will never forget that sense of your own powerlessness and vulnerability, of how a situation can turn from benign to brutal in the blink of an eye, in the space of a breath. That sensibility will run in your veins, like an antibody”
O’ Farrell has that ability a writer must have, to be within a situation and able, simultaneously to reflect on it, to see wider contexts
Making a plane journey which turned somewhat hazardous, and which had only happened because her journey through academia had failed to deliver the expected results, and so led to a changed career path, made her aware, later
“That the things in life which don’t go to plan are usually more important, more formative, in the long run, than the things that do.
You need to expect the unexpected, to embrace it. The best way, I am about to discover, is not always the easy way”
Brushes with mortality have been her own, and also, more heart-breakingly for any parent, anguish over a child’s health. Maggie O’ Farrell, by virtue of surviving her various own ‘near death’ encounters, had almost felt a kind of invulnerability
“The knowledge that I was lucky to be alive, that it could so easily have been otherwise, skewed my thinking. I viewed my continuing life as a bonus, a boon: I could do with it what I wanted”
That sense of having control over your own destiny, if one has it, crumbles in the face of a child’s fragility:
"Holding my child, I realised my vulnerability to death; I was frightened of it, for the first time. I knew too well how fine a membrane separates us from that place, and how easily it can be perforated.”
Maggie O’Farrell has a daughter born with an immunology disorder. She is both more prone to weakened immunity from common pathogens, and extreme over-reactivity to various foodstuffs to the point where she will go into anaphylactic shock – nuts, sesame, eggs, bee or wasp stings – even to the extent that if she comes into contact for example with crumbs from a nut cookie on an improperly cleaned café table. She, and her family, have to live in constant vigilance
It might sound as if this is a dreadfully depressing book, a catalogue of woes – of course, it isn’t.
In its strange way, this is celebratory, a reminder to cherish the wonder of our fragile, strong, livingness
In her fiction, O’Farrell is masterful at slicing open her characters’ emotions and eliciting empathy from the reader. Here, perhaps because she was trying so hard to convey her own emotions, the majority of experiences are over described and analyzed. There are also several instances where she breaks away from a story to give lengthy scientific or historical background. I found this habit disruptive and annoying, and because it involves a complete change in writing style, jarring in the extreme.
All that aside, though, O’Farrell does seem to have led a fascinating and challenging life. I think if she were to choose a more traditional way to tell her story, instead of trying to be ‘clever’, it would make a brilliant read. I hope she redeems herself with her next novel.
Thanks for reading my review. I hope you found it helpful. You can find more candid book reviews on my Amazon profile page.
I’m sure many ladies reading this book can empathise with some of the situations the author has found herself in, perhaps even gone through similar situations ourselves. Did we think we had a ‘brush with death’? Most probably not, just unlucky.
While there is no doubt she writes beautifully and uses the most wonderfully descriptive language, there’s only so many times you can read about her ‘near misses’ without thinking she’s a bit of a drama queen and that her glass is always half empty.
It’s a shame that this is the first of her books I have read, as it’s put me off reading others if they’re also in the same melodramatic vein. Don’t choose this if you want a cheery holiday read.
As the title says it's basically Ms O'Farrell's life story told in a series of potentially life-threatening disasters that have befallen her. I don't know if she's broken several mirrors in her life or walked under too many ladders but life has certainly dealt her more than her share of misfortune, all of which it has to be said she's endured and persevered with admirably.
Life dealt her a pretty crappy hand and the book is very moving in parts,scary in others including close encounters with a murderer and a certain Mr Saville who showed far too great an interest in her while she was in hospital as a child.
My main feeling when reading the book was a realisation that my life hasn't been so bad after all and a profound admiration for Maggie O'Farrell as she conquers things that break a lesser person not just once but...as the title says,17 times.
An excellent book written by an amazing person.