Book Review: I Saw A Man by Owen Sheers

Book: I Saw A Man by Owen SheersI Saw A Man begins with the moment when Michael Turner (writer and recently widowed) walks into his neighbours’ house (Josh and Samantha and their two daughters – a family he has grown close to, since moving back to London). Sheers cleverly takes us back in time to see how Michael began his career as a writer, how he met his late wife (Caroline), how he coped after her death (hit by an American drone bomb whilst working as a TV news reporter) and the back story of his neighbours, Josh and Samantha.   

Meanwhile, the narrative keeps returning to this one crucial moment, as Michael walks through their empty house, looking for a screwdriver and then ‘just checking’ in case a burglar has got in through the open back door.

Sheers keeps the reader in suspense as Michael explores further into his neighbours’ house, as he begins to walk upstairs, sensing his late wife’s presence, hoping, for some reason, that he will find her there.

Then Sheers reveals the story of the man whose job it is to fly the drones for the American military, observing insurgents for days on end and finally pulling the trigger at the most effective moment, when no innocent bystanders are in the way. The man who accidentally killed Michael’s wife.

The more you read, the more convinced you become that something terrible is about to happen. The suspense builds and builds, and it is only in the second half of the novel that you discover the awful truth. Michael must continue, keep living, keep up the pretence.

I Saw A Man is a story about consequences – the way in which one small decision can impact on the lives of others in devastating ways, the narrow gap between what happened and what could have happened. The book explores how people deal with grief (and guilt) in different ways, how they cope (or don’t cope) with loss, and how, through language, through telling, there can be some relief, or release.

The ending of the book is clever, taking us outside the immediate situation, to see, almost from a third person perspective, the connections between these characters, in ways they will never understand.

Owen Sheers will be discussing I Saw A Man and the process of writing at the Cardiff Book Festival on 28th October.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: I Saw A Man by Owen Sheers

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