I Am, I Am, I Am | Maggie O’Farrell

The angle adopted in this memoir is somewhat unexpected: as the book’s subtitle Seventeen Brushes with Death suggests, Maggie O’Farrell is telling her story through seventeen moments of her life when she – or a beloved one, but is it so different? – nearly died. As she tells her mother:

“I’m trying to write a life, told only through near-death experiences.
Maggie O’Farrell, I Am, I Am, I Am, p.142

I Am, I Am, I Am, Maggie O'Farrell, Tinder Press, 2017
Source: Tinder Press

It might sound morbid, but it tuns out to be quite the opposite. By showing how close death always is, the author also encourages readers to enjoy every single moment, to stop worrying so much and try to plan everything ahead, because anything can happen, at any time.

Reading these pages makes us realise that we, too, nearly died at some point. Perhaps not as often as the writer, who seems particularly prone to finding herself in dangerous situations – sometimes because she likes taking risks, but sometimes without having anything to do with it!

Her experiences are so varied that you will certainly find at least one chapter that resonates with you, depending on your own past, adventures and fears. I particularly enjoyed the fifteenth chapter, “Lungs (2010)”, in which she explains how she discovered travelling during her first class trip to Italy.

What could have been a mere account of teenagers eating ice creams and visiting historical sites is in fact a wonderful piece of writing, blending Italian treats and sights with introspection and strong, touching, relatable feelings.

Maggie O’Farrell’s talent as a writer permeates her whole memoir, which is not only worth reading for the story(ies) it tells, but also for the sheer pleasure of listening to the words on the pages. Listening is, I believe, the best verb to describe it, even if you read in utter silence. The author’s writing is both accessible and lyrical, mesmerising and melodious.

I Am, I Am, I Am then reaches its climax in the final chapter, leaving you panting and hopeful, the heart swollen with a new will to live.

As long as we are, we are, we are.

My rating

Not unpleasant but not necessary

This rating might be surprising… Indeed, I have no real reproach for this book, the writing is beautiful and I had a lovely time reading it but… I know it won’t remain engrained in my memory, it won’t make a lasting impression on me. I probably didn’t read it at the right point in my life.

About the book

Author: Maggie O’Farrell
Publisher: Tinder Press (Hachette)
Publication year: 2017
Page count: 304
ISBN: 978-1472240774

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