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.