cover image The Amnesiac

The Amnesiac

Sam Taylor, . . Penguin, $14 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-14-311340-9

British author Taylor (The Republic of Trees ) makes his U.S. debut with a complex work of metafiction that will resonate with Jorge Luis Borges fans. James Purdew, a 30-year-old unemployed Englishman living in Amsterdam, suffers an identity crisis after tripping on the stairs to the apartment he shares with his Dutch girlfriend, Ingrid, and breaking his ankle. After Ingrid leaves him, Purdew rereads his journals and decides to write his life story backwards, beginning with Ingrid. He believes the project, titled Memoirs of an Amnesiac , will help him find his “way out of the labyrinth.” To complicate matters, after returning to the U.K. and finding work in construction, Purdew discovers a 19th-century manuscript titled Confessions of a Killer hidden in a wall of a flat he’s renovating. A fine stylist, Taylor keeps a lot of balls in the air, but all the philosophizing tends to slow a narrative that offers plenty of mystery but not enough resolution. (July)