Monday, 19 November 2007

The Amnesia Clinic - James Scudamore

" Bewitching...This is a rigorously plotted novel masquerading as a pciaresque romp and highly recommended. Scudamore has talent to burn." Sunday Telegraph.

The Amnesia Clinic is an extraordinary, powerful novel set in Quito, Ecuador. Anti, a quiet English boy, strikes up a friendship with flamboyant local classmate Fabian. Fabian is everything Anti isn't: handsome, athletic and popular. What's more, he lives with his cool, eccentric Uncle Suarez, while Anti is stuck in the dull ex-pat world inhabited by his parents.
Suarez, a storyteller par excellence, infects the boys with his passion for outlandish tales, and , before long, the relationship between them becomes one conducted entirely through the medium of storytelling.
One subject is taboo: Fabian's parents. But when details surrounding their disappearnce begin to emerge, Anti decides to console his friend with a story suggesting that Fabian's mother may be living at a bizarre hospital on the coast for patients with memory loss.
With confused emotions and reality losing its tenuous grip, the boys embark on a quixotic voyage across Ecuador in search of an "Amnesia Clinic" that may or may not exist...

I really enjoyed this novel, and found it exciting and suspenseful, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the reader learns from page 1 that a lead character will die before the story is through. The relationship between Fabian and Anti is touching, and unlikely, and Uncle Suarez is rather mysterious and enigmatic. The boys, both teenagers, seem younger than any teen boys I'm acquainted with, maybe because Anti has asthma, and Fabian is closeted by his uncle following his parent's death. In this way, they would perhaps not be as naive or innocent to find themselves in the circumstances that they do. A clever aspect of the story is that the reader never can be totally sure, what is fact or fiction as far as the boys narratives go.
The Amnesia Clinic is Scudamore's debut novel and won the 2007 Somerset Maugham Award as well as being shorlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, The Commonwealth Writer's Prize, the Glan Dimplex Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize.

" A polished debut ...turns the tables on both characters and reader as imagination segues into dangerous reality" Guardian.

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