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Samedi the Deafness    by Jesse Ball order for
Samedi the Deafness
by Jesse Ball
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2007 (2007)

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* * *   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

This is a strange but quite readable book. The narrator and main character, James Sim, is an odd young man, a mnemonist, that is someone who is blessed (or cursed?) with a photographic memory. James stumbles across a dying man during a walk in the park; rather than calling for an ambulance immediately, James listens to the victim's tale of conspiracy and intrigue, knowing full well that this man is not going to survive his injuries. James decides to follow the clues given to him by the dying McHale, which pivot around one word: Samedi. McHale has also told James that suicides being committed outside the White House are linked to the conspirators.

When James begins his investigation, he is kidnapped and taken to a country house, which is, in fact, an asylum for chronic liars. However, during the course of the novel we are not quite sure whether James actually belongs in the asylum; we are privy to his thoughts and they do not seem to be quite the thoughts of a sane individual! James muses on past incidents in his life, and reveals that he had an imaginary friend in the form of an owl for a very long time while growing up. In itself this is not unusual for young children, but James still seems much attached to Ansilon, and even now mourns his departure.

James eventually finds out why he has been brought to the asylum: 'The reason you were brought here ... is simple: we are on the brink of making history and I wanted this period in the life of our house to be recorded. But how to record all the moments of this life, all this time, how to record it in a manner that lends it to easy retrieval? ... I decided, having thought long on the matter, that a mnemonist would be the perfect device.'

As James sits down to memorize all the events leading up to Samedi, James, as narrator, mentions that 'There was a fear among mnemonists, a fear of stretching the mind to a point where it would actually be broken by the stress.' Has he in fact been broken? Is the whole narrative story merely a figment of a deranged mind?

Jesse Ball has taken us within the intriguing mind of James Sim; it is up to the reader to decide whether James's narrative is fact or fiction. Samedi the Deafness is an interesting and unique novel, definitely worth picking up and delving into.

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