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4.3 out of 5 stars
11
The Amnesia Clinic
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on 7 January 2013
Much enjoyed this thought-provoking, moving book. Memorable, unusual but totally believable characters - the two young men and the uncle especially. And Quito and Ecuador are vividly portrayed, too.
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on 23 September 2009
The Amnesia Clinic

Ecuador in the 1990s. Fabian and Anti (Anthony) are great friends. Fabian lives with an exotic uncle, Suarez, and suffers from the dark cloud of a dead father and missing mother - almost certainly dead, but he is not prepared to accept her death. Anti lives with his much less exotic expat family who expect him to turn up to events at the British Embassy whenever required, and who are now planning to send him to boarding school in England.

Fabian fantasises about the whereabouts of his missing mother, and his fantasies get wilder. The boys skip school, with the necessary forged excuse notes, to go and find her, Fabian believing that this might actually be possible, Anti going along for the adventure. And indeed it is an adventure, with crazy characters met en route, and different modes of transport.

This is definitely a page turner - all the time you want to know what will happen next - each time they put themselves into danger you wonder how they will get out, or even whether they will get out.

Highly recommended
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on 8 August 2013
Set in Ecuador, this is a story that will both shock and endear you to its twin protagonists, Fabian, who lives with his Uncle as his parents have died and Anti so-called because he couldn't get his teeth round Antony, when he was a child. Anti has asthma and is fascinated by Fabian and his Uncle, Suarez, especially the outrageous stories they tell. Anti too proves to be no mean story-teller. Anti's family are ex-pats, seconded to the Embassy and live in a handsome house in the New Town area. Fabian and his Uncle live in the Old Town, but the boys meet up at school and become firm friends.

The loss of Fabian's mother haunts him, and the boys have made up a story that feeds into their fantasies that she did not die in the car crash that killed his father, (her body was never found) but somehow escaped from the car and is being cared for, probably in a place that cares for amnesiacs, somewhere in the hinterland of Ecuador. When it appears that his parents are preparing to send Anti to school in England, the boys decide to have one more adventure and set off by train and bus to find the Amnesia Clinic that Fabian's mother, according to their poetic imagination, has ended up in. They are both aware that there is no such place, but Anti has fed Fabian's fantasies so well that they half-believe that they might find her.

Young people can easily believe two contradictory things at once. For instance, that their explanation of an event is real, and that, simultaneously, it is fake. But it is usually very young children who are able to do that and perhaps the boys are a little too old for the trick to work so well. This book is nevertheless, hypnotically readable, packed with stories that will convince you that imagined worlds are as real as your own (or mine at least) rather ordinary existence. It is a testament to story-telling that is both brilliantly convincing and true to the boys' experience, while still being a wonderful, if cautionary, tale.
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on 5 January 2007
This is a fabulous book, a really assured debut. I was dying to get my teeth into it, as I went on an extended holiday in Ecuador a few years ago and fell in love with the place. I was not disappointed. This book captures some of its magic. It's extremely well written, with fully formed characters (who I didn't necessarily always like) and has a really cool take on the whole nature of story itself. The ending shocked me, and made me cry, and at the same time I was left wondering what had really happened. I love the way the writer plays with language and storytelling. I think storytelling is what books should be about and that it often gets neglected for the sake of deeper themes and unusual structures in novels these days. I highly recommend this book, which I believe has also been shortlisted for a couple of prizes.
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on 8 October 2006
I couldn't decide whether this book was aimed at young adults or was pitching for magical realism. I think the author had something important to say but I'm not sure that he managed to say it. Some parts were laboured and over explained, others left unexplored.
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on 19 August 2014
Very engaging novel which depicts Ecuador vividly. Entertaining and moving story of teenage friendship, cultural differences and adolescent hope and disappointment.
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on 21 April 2006
'The Amnesia Clinic' is a novel not easily forgotten. Catching the sounds and smells of Ecuador and its people, indigenous as well as Hispanic, James Scudamore's excellent debut takes us beyond beach-bum banality and into recursive stories, stories about stories, storytelling and storytellers. What is real - what we experience, or what we are told? If a tale is told in two ways, can both be true?

If a fantasy is more credible for being well-told, this is a fine example. Warmly written and tidily edited, Scudamore's book is a worthwhile read, whether or not you've been to Ecuador. He left me wanting to know more about his central characters, but in a good way. Next, please!
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on 15 September 2013
A highly original and interesting first novel. I found the relationship between the two boys very real and really enjoyed the story immensely.
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on 13 May 2011
Really enjoyed this book. Moved at a fast pace, and the style of writing switching between their flights of fancy and reality made it an interesting read. Bit of a rushed end, something I also found with his other book, Heliopolis, but overall a very good read.
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on 1 November 2006
For sheer page-turning pleasure this book is hard to beat: I didn't really know what to expect from the cover when I picked it up, but found myself devouring it in a couple of days. There are plenty of wild tangents and stories within stories here but they are backed up by tight authorial control and beautiful writing. Recommended.
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