The Man without a Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates REVIEW

The Man Without a Shadow

TITLE & AUTHOR: The Man without a Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates
PUBLISHER: Fourth Estate
RELEASED: 19 January 2016





From bestselling author Joyce Carol Oates, a taut and fascinating novel that examines the mysteries of human memory and personality.

In 1965, a young research scientist named Margot Sharpe meets Elihu Hoopes, the subject of her study, a handsome amnesiac who cannot remember anything beyond the last seventy seconds. Over the course of thirty years, the two embark on mirroring journeys of self-discovery. Margot, enthralled by her charming, mysterious, and deeply lonely patient, as well as her officious supervisor, attempts to unlock Eli’s shuttered memories of a childhood trauma without losing her own sense of identity in the process. And Eli, haunted by memories of an unknown girl’s body underneath the surface of a lake, pushes to finally know himself once again, despite potentially devastating consequences. As Margot and Eli meet over and over again, Joyce Carol Oates’ tightly written, nearly clinical prose propels the lives of these two characters forwards, both suspended in a dream-like, shadowy present, and seemingly balanced on the thinnest, sharpest of lines between past and future. Made vivid by Oates’ eye for detail and searing insight into the human psyche, The Man without a Shadow is an eerie, ambitious, and structurally complex novel, as poignant as it is thrilling.


She meets him, she falls in love. He forgets her.
She meets him, she falls in love. He forgets her.
She meets him, she falls in love. He forgets her.
At last she says good-bye to him, thirty-one years after they’ve first met. On his deathbed, he has forgotten her.


The Man without a Shadow is complex, deep and incredibly moving. I was fascinated by E.H’s story, based I believe on the famous Phineas Gage case. I’ve studied psychology on and off for seven years and the subject that always interests me the most is perception and memory. JCO’s novel was right up my street. I was completely engrossed in the scenes and chapters that focused on Margot’s research. Some of the tests are repeated due to the nature of E.H’s amnesia and JCO gives you the same information several times. This never bothered me because the nature of the research fascinated me. I kept imagining what it would be like to be E.H or know someone like him. The characters are complex and painfully real at time. Margot is fascinating and extremely disturbing at times. Her obsession with E.H. borders on stalking and is quite unsettling. She acts irrationally and takes action this is unprofessional and even dangerous. If anyone knew the things she did she’d have lost her job. I found her very flawed for a neurologist but painfully human. I also felt a little sad for her, loving someone who couldn’t remember her from one minute to the next (literally). I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s