Title: I am, I am, I am
Author: Maggie O’Farrell
Published: 22 August 2017
Publisher: Tinder Press
Pages: 304 Pages
About the book
A childhood illness she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. A terrifying encounter on a remote path. A mismanaged labour in an understaffed hospital. Shocking, electric, unforgettable, this is the extraordinary memoir from Costa Novel-Award winner and Sunday Times bestselling author Maggie O’Farrell. It is a book to make you question yourself. What would you do if your life was in danger, and what would you stand to lose?
Seventeen times the author’s life flashed quickly in front of her, described to us in ‘real time’, in this memoir. Maggie O’farrell has expressed in a Guardian interview that she found this book difficult to write as it compromised her family’s privacy and revealed her innermost secrets. So its hardy of her to open up a vein like that.
Each chapter is titled under a certain part of the body that is under threat at the time. A near escape from a murderer, a free falling plane, encephalitis as a child, Frustration with dismissive doctors with one steering her into a life-threatening labour, a daughter with a severe life-threatening allergy, are just a shocking few. Some brushes involve the Lord touching her gently on the shoulder (arguably), and I found myself thinking, “…there but for the grace of God go I”. Other brushes when the Lord down right shoulder barges and doesn’t look to see whether she’s picked herself up off the floor…well, it brings me on to what struck me about her writing and her experiences.
I will digress a little to get to my point. I have always felt that, in order to get a true measure of how fit and healthy we really are, it is probably more useful to measure how well we recover from extremely challenging experiences and consider what we take from those experiences. And by fit and healthy I don’t just mean in the physical sense but in mind, body, and spirit.
A piece of music is created as much by the pauses in it as by the beautiful acoustics. The silent parts enhance and accentuate, help in the ebb and flow. To me, it is also the time that music catches its breath, helping the sounds to find shape and form.
Personally, it is all about the gaps in everything. What happens in those that are telling.
The title of the book is a reference to Slyvia Plath’s protagonist, Esther in The Bell Jar who listens to her heartbeat – the beat of which is likened to a statement about the body’s will to live. The screaming heartbeat underscoring our existence. That we only tune into when our life is on the edge.
This is where O’Farrell finds her breath; in the quieter, contemplative, reflective moments of the book where I find her metal sparkling and I hear her heartbeat, her delight in her existence, feel her embracing life and her eloquent mind. She is evidently equipped with a fighting spirit.
To find out more about Maggie O’Farrell and her books, click on the links below: