Book review – I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

I’m not massively into thrillers, and I also tend to steer away from overly long books – I find that 250-300 pages is often adequate! So I Am Pilgrim is certainly not the kind of book I would usually choose, and in this case I didn’t. It was selected by my book group and so I i am pilgrimwas kind of forced to give it a go. The paperback comes in at a ludicrous 896 pages so I was dreading it!

The book is narrated by Pilgrim – an American secret agent who finds himself hunting the most dangerous man on earth. The story starts with the brutal murder of a woman in a hotel room in New York, and from here we find out more of the narrator’s past, as well as about the man he will later try and track down. The book takes us on an epic journey around the world from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan, taking in Russia and Turkey on the way.

A few points about the writing style. The book is in first person throughout, so even when we hear the stories of other characters, it is in Pilgrim’s words, and this can jar a bit when we find out what other characters think or do in private as the narrator would have no way of knowing this.

Another slightly irritating device is the constant foreshadowing – for example in many chapters there is a line like: “If only I had listened to him – this mistake would come back to haunt me later.” It was as if the author felt he needed to give us reasons to carry on reading, which actually he didn’t as there was plenty going on without the hints of more to come.

The story itself is action packed, but it is at times implausible and over the top. However I think this comes with the territory of thrillers, and they probably wouldn’t be particularly thrilling if they were more true to life! The narrator is a Hollywood-style hero, complete with sad childhood, but his character does work for the story. He may not be particularly likeable, but frankly, he wouldn’t care.

Despite the ridiculous length of the book, it is broken up into very short chapters, which makes the book more manageable and it isn’t actually the slog I thought it would be. And despite my many reservations about the novel I have to admit I loved it! Yes, it was unbelievable and ridiculous at times, with some racial stereotypes thrown in for good measure, but I just suspended disbelief and enjoyed the ride. I found the story really gripping and I think the way the parts of the story all came together was very cleverly done. I tried not to let the implausible events bug me too much and I just let myself get carried away with the story. And it was perfect to read in big chunks over the Christmas break.

Overall, although I shouldn’t have, I thoroughly enjoyed I Am Pilgrim. I would recommend it if you fancy an action-packed thriller and can suspend disbelief for nearly 900 pages!

Rating (based purely on my enjoyment of the novel): 9 out of 10

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