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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 28 March 2012
I read this book right after reading Before I Go To Sleep, which if you've read it is the (slightly melodramatic) tale of a woman who loses all her memories each night and has to rely on a journal she writes each day to relearn who to trust. It's a serious thriller and pretty good. This is, in some ways, the opposite. The hero of our tale is Vaughan who awakens on a train in London to find he has no idea who he is. Unlike the protagonist of Before I Go To Sleep, Vaughan doesn't have the annoying habit of forgetting everything each night and the novel is clearly written to entertain. So unlike BIGTS, we don't care about consistency too much - just enjoy the ride.

And it's a great ride. It transpires that Vaughan was just about to get divorced from his wife Maddie. But of course since he can't remember anything about their marriage, he's really attracted to her and can't understand why she hates him. Other characters who help him regain some semblance of normality include his best friend (the useless Gary and his wife Linda), Vaughan's father, parents-in-law and children. As he gradually regains his memories of life with Maddie and her children, he starts to understand why they drifted apart and vows to win her back and be a better man.

What I enjoyed about this book was that it combined some excellent comedy (there are many laugh-out loud moments - for anyone who has read it my favourite was the reaction of the American woman who loses a wall in a car accident - Very clever!) with a caring discourse on middle age, marriage and life in general. When we get to our forties how satisfied are we with what we have? If we had no memory of it all would we think it was great? It raises some serious issues about personality and relationships, but keeps things light enough to enjoy without becoming too depressed. And O'Farrell keeps the plot twisting sufficiently to easily maintain our attention.

This deserves to be read by a lot of people, perhaps not just middle-aged people, but I think anyone who has been or is middle aged will appreciate it most. but don't let me put you younger people off - it's simply an extremely well executed book and I highly recommend it. I'll certainly seek out his other books after reading this. 5 stars, nothing less.
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on 9 May 2013
I found this story original, thought-provoking and with an underlying message of love, loss and how tedious the petty things in life can be and how they can escalate and destroy the more valuable things in our lives. Thoroughly enjoyable read and sadly it flew by so quickly. I laughed, cried and laughed some more. Great stuff !!!
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on 18 February 2013
This was chosen for a book group that I attend and I'm so glad that it was because it's not one that I would have chosen for myself. The concept, a man who loses all of his personal memories but can function well in a world that he doesn't remember and who can remember everything that has happened since the onset of his amnesia, is extemely thought provoking. The writing is superb. John O'Farrell has a deceptively laconic style, accurately picking up on our many foibles and failings (as you'd expect from one of the leading lights of 'Spitting Image'). There are many laugh out loud moments as well as poignant ones. A hugely enjoyable read even if only taken at face value.
However, it made me think long and hard about the question of identity, our perception of how others might see us and what effect that has on shaping us as individuals. For example, would we make the same decisions in life if we were free from the expectations and prejudices of others?
Four stars rather than five only because it did have a couple of weak points for me as far as believability was concerned.
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on 9 May 2013
Unusual title that draws you in. Immediately likeable main character. Brilliant one-liners and humorous concepts.Ups and downs of plot riveting and you do not know if it it all will pan out by the end. Ending not predictable and it leaves you guessing to the last page. At the same time its emotional roller-coaster rides strike home and involve you deeper and deeper. Extremely worthwhile read - fast and entertaining from beginning to end. This book was bought as a birthday present for a friend because I had to return the original to its owner - what better recommendation can you give than that? Definitely the best of John O'Farrell's books.
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on 5 April 2012
First of all, let's get out of the way what this book isn't. It's not a thriller. Neither is it something that's going to end up on an A Level study list. I nearly wrote that it isn't engaging enough either, but when I thought about that, I found that it is! And it's no worse for not being any of the above things either.

What it is - is pure entertainment. John Farrell takes a believable situation and develops the plot and characters down a believable route. Along the way he keeps us guessing, we find out more about the central characters and he makes us laugh. There are ups and downs for the characters and we are kept wondering until pretty much the end whether the central couple are going to get back together. Okay, perhaps an educated guess can be taken here.

It's a feelgood book. It's entertainment. You do want to keep reading it. I suppose if I were to categorise this book, I'd say it's a romantic comedy. Romantic comedies aren't really my thing. But I thoroughly enjoyed this one. That's the reason I'd recommend you read it!
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on 8 November 2012
Im not very good with reviews. Just wanted to say that I loved this book, I couldn't put it down. I read it in two days as I was so desperate to find out what had happened and why.
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on 15 July 2015
This is one of the few books that has made me cry. The story of Vaughan as he tries to recover his memory is funny and heart breaking all at the same time. John Farrell writes about men who get to show their feelings which I find very refreshing. He writes with humour and insight and the readers is there with Vaughan all along the way of his incredible awakening. It actually leaves you thinking that a loss of memory could do us all some good!
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on 18 November 2014
I liked the characters, and there were moments when I laughed out loud. However, I did find it read a bit like a movie, somI was not only casting it but solving the difficulties of filming it. I think there will be some fantasy flashbacks, a bit like in the old series of Reginald Perrin. Also, there will need to be a voice-over for the dog's complex thoughts, although whether it should be the main actor putting words in the dog's mouth, or just someone like Martin Clunes, I haven't made my mind up about yet. Satisfying ending, though.
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on 31 May 2012
The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O'Farrell is the story of Jack Vaughn, a history teacher, who wakes up on the tube with no memory of who he is, or his past, and his journey back to mental wellbeing.

It transpires that Jack's marriage has ended and that he was the one who filed for divorce but as his memories slowly return, he begins to remember all the reasons why he loved his wife to begin with.

I had a mixed response to this book, at times quite funny and also quite poignant at one point I started crying, which quite surprised me, as the calibre of the prose in general was only slightly above average. It's very contemporary with reference to the Royal Wedding as a recent past event, and has the same bloke lit kind of writing style as Tony Parsons or Nick Hornby.

The problem with the book is that 'psychogenic fugue' which is what Jack Vaughn experiences is actually quite a serious disorder which leaves it sufferers permanently disconnected and unable to bond with those they have loved. If they remember past events which is often unlikely, they still feel separate from their old self.

The jocular way the matter is treated with, though sometimes fun too often veers into the asinine and the ludicrous rendering the novel less endearing in general because it invokes the unpleasant 'As If' reaction in the reader. It has no depth, no seriousness, it's fluff, but fun fluff.

Jack Vaughn adapts too well, and resumes his old life too easily for someone in his circumstances. Where surrounding characters are concerned, I couldn't stand Linda and Gary and found it completely unbelievable that characters like Jack and Maddy would be their friends. The ending ultimately is the cheesy fare of a really poor romantic comedy. Yet somehow despite spotting glaring flaws as I read, I both laughed and cried. It was an engaging read, easy, fun, quick. 7/10
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on 18 March 2012
What if you completely lost your memory? Couldn't even remember your wife and children? Saw your wife and really liked the look of her? Then discovered you were in the end stages of a divorce?
Very, very funny, with plenty of amusing one liners.
I heartily recommend this feel-good book.
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