BOOK REVIEW: I Am No One by Patrick Flanery
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
Jeremy O’Keefe, a middle-aged Professor of History, returns to his native New York after a decade teaching at Oxford, hoping to reconnect with his daughter and rebuild the life he left behind. He settles into the rhythm of a too-empty life, long evenings alone after a day teaching students he barely knows. Then a strange encounter with a young man who presumes an acquaintance he doesn’t remember and a series of disconcerting events leave him with a growing conviction that he is being watched. The pale young man keeps appearing, a haunting figure lingers outside his apartment at night, and then mysterious packages begin to arrive.
As his grip on reality seems to shift and turn, Jeremy struggles to know whether he can believe what he is experiencing, or whether his mind is in the grip of an irrational obsession. I Am No One explores the tenuous link between fear and paranoia in our post-Snowden lives; a world of surveillance and self-censorship, where privacy no longer exists and our freedoms are inexorably eroded.
The blurb of this book, coupled with the popular shelving of “Mystery” and “Thriller” on goodreads, suggested that this was going to be something of a high-drama thriller, with a certain hint of personal madness. Perhaps I went into this book with the wrong mindset, but I don’t think that’s the underlying problem with this book.
I knew from the first chapter, nay the first page, that this was not going to be an easy read, and though I tried to revisit this title on several occasions, and tried to push through to get to the meat of the story, I eventually had to throw in the towel. In browsing the reviews of people who did push through this story, I have been led to believe that there never was any meat to this story, nor a proper conclusion.
Jeremy O’Keefe is a pompous, full of himself windbag, and the fact that he exists feels like the biggest obstacle in this story. He goes on and on and on about nothing, with run-on sentences, random thoughts that deviate from the main story and carry on for several pages, and constant comparisons between Britishisms and Americanisms.
Large chunks of this book are spent with Jeremy feeling sorry for himself, hating on people who mistake his accent for an English one (after he spent a decade in England), and not understanding how repulsive he really is. He fears he is being watched, and that nothing in his life can remain hidden, and yet nothing I read even hinted at anything close to real menace.
This is one of the most boring, emotionless books I have ever attempted to read, and the only people I could recommend it to are those who like boring monologues or who are having trouble sleeping.
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