‘… but what if that’s the only thing you can remember?
What would you do, if you woke up on a deserted island, with no recollection of who you are and no idea how you got there, surrounded by four strangers? Your only clue to your identity is an unspeakable yearning to have a baby back in your arms.’
Such is the premise of the new thriller I KNOW MY NAME by acclaimed poet and academic CJ Cooke.
Published by Harper Collins on 15th June, CJ Cooke was inspired to write this novel through her work in creative writing interventions for treating mental illness. This is a book that was written to raise awareness and to start a conversation….
I would like to thank the publisher and NetGalley for my copy of the book and as always here is my voluntary and unbiased review.
Komméno Island, Greece: I don’t know where I am, who I am. Help me. A woman is washed up on a remote Greek island with no recollection of who she is or how she got there.
Potter’s Lane, Twickenham, London: Eloïse Shelley is officially missing.
Lochlan’s wife has vanished into thin air, leaving their toddler and twelve-week-old baby alone. Her money, car and passport are all in the house, with no signs of foul play. Every clue the police turn up means someone has told a lie…
Does a husband ever truly know his wife? Or a wife know her husband? Why is Eloïse missing? Why did she forget?
The truth is found in these pages…
CJ Cooke has written a novel that was prompted by her own very personal experiences with mental health issues. A very strong advocate, highlighting the stigma surrounding mental health issues today, CJ Cooke leads a Glasgow based research project ‘exploring the relationship between creative writing and mental health’
In her own words ~ ‘No novel can possibly tackle such large social issues, but perhaps this one can start a useful conversation, or prompt someone in need to reach out for help.’
I Know My Name is the story of Eloise Shelley, a mother of two small children. Her husband Lochlan receives a shocking call one day from a neighbour to tell him that his wife appears to missing. With Lochlan working in Edinburgh, he makes the journey home, with as much haste as possible, only to discover that Eloise is still not home.
Lochlan does all the routine checks. He contacts her friends, checks for her wallet, phone, passport etc., but everything is exactly as it was. Nothing has been taken and it is as though Eloise has just vanished into thin air.
The following day he informs the police, her grandparents and all others who would be concerned for her whereabouts. Eloise was raised by her grandparents in Switzerland, as her own mother had lived a troubled life. With the wealth of her grandparents, Eloise was well educated and now held a very senior position in a charity, assisting refugees. She was at home on maternity leave at the time of her disappearance, but when at work, she would have been considered a very strong and able individual. Her disappearance is totally out of character.
Komméno Island, Northwest of Greece, a boat is wrecked off the coast, with a woman on board. She is alive but has no memory of how she ended up there. She also has no idea of her identity.
The island is abandoned save for a few rather quirky characters who locate her and bring her back to the relative safety of the run down old cottage where they are staying. The island, once a hub of the tourist industry was hit badly by the recession. Now uninhabited, with the only locals been the mountain goats, she finds herself in the care of these individuals who appear to be on a writing retreat.
Koméno Island is brilliantly portrayed as a very bleak and isolated place. As this lost and frightened woman is soon to discover, there is a very sinister and disturbing atmosphere present, yet she is unable to establish any sense of reality and moreover she cannot get a grasp on who these people are.
In the meantime, Lochlan is frantically searching for traces of Eloise. He never really had much in common with her grandparents, as in their eyes he was never good enough for her. But as the pursuit for Eloise continues, Lochlan makes some very alarming discoveries.
I know My Name is a completely different read for me and here is where I probably had a little difficulty with the book.
The story of Eloise Shelley is truly frightening. Her character is elusive in many ways as we try to piece together her history. As a mother myself her story resonated with me in many ways as I tried to imagine her thoughts and the possibility of this scenario playing out for real.
But something just didn’t sit right with me when I finished the book. I felt the ending was a little too far fetched as I pondered the alternatives. It all was wrapped up a little too neatly for me.
There is no doubt that CJ Cooke can write. I had vivid images in my mind of the desolation of the island. The portrayal of fear and loneliness jumps right off the pages. On finishing the book I thought about the content and the message being expressed. Then I read The Afterward by the author and I was totally taken aback by the recorded words.
I know My Name is to be adapted for TV as a 6-8 part drama. I honestly believe this is where this novel will come into it’s own. The characterization of Eloise will make for compelling viewing, as layer by layer her story is revealed slowly. There is a very heavy eeriness about this book that I think will transcend much better on screen.
Now folks, bearing in mind this is just my personal opinion, as this book was just not the right fit for me, I would advise you to make your own decision and discover for yourself the truth that is to be found in the pages of I Know My Name.
Purchase Link ~ I Know My Name
About CJ Cooke:
Carolyn Jess-Cooke is a poet, novelist, editor, and academic.
I Know My Name, is published by HarperCollins (UK) in June 2017, Grand Central Publishing (USA) in January 2018 and in several other languages.
The recipient of a K Blundell Award from the Society of Authors, the novel is being made into a 6-8 part TV drama.
Carolyn holds a PhD in film adaptations of Shakespeare and was an established film academic before turning to novels and poetry, with four books published on the themes of films sequels, Shakespeare, and literary adaptation.