Book Review 8 – I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

24 hours.  24 glorious hours. That, is how long it took me to read this book. So if like me you thought memoirs were boring, let this be the moment that you are disabused of that notion.

For my blogging purposes, I read from Friday to Friday so that I have two days to write up my blog post and get it ready to publish on the Monday. Usually I start reading the next book as I do this, so that it will be read by the time Friday comes around again. However last Monday, by the time I was writing up my post on The Underground Railroad, I had already finished I Am, I Am, I Am. In fact by the time you guys got your peepers on last weeks book review, this one had already been drafted by and large – I have been twiddling my thumbs all week!

I thank my lucky stars for the day that I decided to go to the Chiswick Book Festival (if you didn’t make it, do check it out for next year) because it was there that I decided to attend the event where Maggie O’Farrell spoke about her new book. I had of course heard of the book. Mentions in the press, posters on the train and so on, but up until that point I wasn’t actually thinking about reading it. The thing is, you can’t really go to an event like that and then not buy the book afterwards. And you can’t buy the book at an event like that and not get it personally signed by the author afterwards.

The subtitle of the book is ‘seventeen brushes with death’ and that is indeed the morbid axis upon which each of O’Farrell’s chapters turns. O’Farrell has led an astonishing life. The things that have happened to her are terrifying. Whether or not they are all times that she nearly died is debateable (some more than others) but the fact that one life has encompassed all these experiences is mind boggling. ‘How has she coped with all this?’ I kept finding myself thinking.

This may sound faintly ridiculous but I actually felt grateful to O’Farrell for writing this book. For allowing me into the most personal and turbulent moments of her life. Most of us have the luxury of keeping our personal lives just that way: personal. It takes some courage to lay the innermost parts of our lives open to scrutiny. Kudos to Maggie O’Farrell for having the gumption to do it. 

Despite the subject matter at hand the book is not morbid. O’Farrell’s zest for life and thirst for adventure really come through. In fact her self confessed restlessness did at times have me sighing and a-shaking of my head. As a mum myself I empathised with the second hand remonstrations of O’Farrell’s mother who regularly called to the heavens for justice to be done and her daughter to understand one day what she had gone through as a mum. O’Farrell concedes that someone appears to have heard her mother’s call.

When you get to the end of the book (sadly, yes it does have to end) you get the sense that here is a woman who has been defined not by her proximity to death but rather by her attitude to life. I came away with her message resounding in my ears. That life is precious, that it should be cherished, that it should be celebrated. So if you too want to celebrate life with a book that you can’t stop reading then I have one and only one suggestion for you. Read this book. You won’t regret it!

Next week I’m going to be all about something slightly different. I’m reading ‘The Little Voice’ by self published author Joss Sheldon. It promises to be a treat! Come back next Monday and see my review.