Review of ‘I am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes

This book was recommended by two lovely followers of this website, so I decided to make it the Book club choice of the month for May. The thriller genre is not one I would usually read, and I found it interesting that it was recommended to me by two women. That may sound immediately sexist, but from my initial introduction to the book I felt it was definitely a book more suited to men. So it was good that I shattered both my aversion to thrillers and my sexist thoughts, by thoroughly enjoying it.
For a brief summary I will turn to my friend Amazon: ‘Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn’t exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation.’
That is a very brief summary of an altogether more complex set of plots and sub plots. The main story goes as follows: A secret intelligence agent, who becomes known as Pilgrim, has entered the world of espionage partly as a result of a very insecure upbringing – he was adopted by wealthy parents, but he didn’t have any kind of a relationship with his mother and he had a difficult relationship with his father. As the story progresses, we discover that his relationship with his adopted father forms an important and meaningful part of the story, as he realizes his father did care very much for him, and Pilgrim (also known by several other names earlier on in the book) regrets not treating him with more respect.
As well as investigating two murders, the main plot follows Pilgrim, who is trying to track down a man known as the Saracen, after the discovery that he is about to cause absolute carnage in the USA. (I won’t tell how or why as this forms the crux of the book). The Saracen had become a teenage jihadist after watching his father’s beheading in Saudi Arabia, the crime – disparaging the Royal Family. The story develops as we read with baited breath to see whether Pilgrim will be able to stop the Saracen’s ruthless plan. The back story of both the Saracen and Pilgrim are also told in detail, so we understand their motivation and their absolute determination, albeit entirely misguided (in the case of the Saracen anyway.)
There is also the matter of two other murders, one in New York and one in Bodrun which turn out to be linked and along with another cop (who becomes a friend) called Ben Bradley, Pilgrim sets out to solve these murders as well.
There are several other sub plots and the book is a roller coaster ride of intrigue, mayhem and mystery from the off. I felt it was the sort of book that would be ideal for a holiday read. It required time and speedy reading to keep up with what was going on. It was fast paced and although there are some gruesome scenes, I felt the book had enough emotional depth to keep you interested in the characters. I actually grew to like and care about ‘Pilgrim’ and what happened to him.
Some have argued that it was fanciful, unrealistic and not at all credible. I beg to differ. Yes, I felt parts were stretching the realms of the realistic, but it was all part of the thrill and made for an exciting, unputdownable book. I liked the character of Pilgrim, even though he was capable of killing without remorse. I understood there were reasons for that and he had great loyalty to those he cared about.
As the author was a journalist, the research was thorough and the details added so much to the plot. Terry Hayes is also a screen writer and it is very evident in this book. It read so visually and it will make a terrific film, which I am sure is what the author intended.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone looking for ideas for their summer holiday read. Not my usual choice, but very enjoyable nonetheless.


How are you getting on with ‘I am Pilgrim’ and what else are you reading?

Hello book fans.  Just thought I would check in firstly to thank those who have commented so far on May’s book club choice ‘I am Pilgrim,’ and to ask those of you who may have started it or may be contemplating it, to get  your skates on!

What do you think so far?  Enjoying it?  I have now finished it, but I am not going to put up my review until the last week of May as promised, so if you haven’t read it yet, you best get going!  It’s not a short read!

If you have finished it, what else are you reading?  I am going to put up June’s book club choice on the Monthly Book Club page later today.  If you wish to get started it is called ‘H is for Hawk’ by Helen Macdonald, and I have to admit this is a very personal choice.  You will see why when you read the summary.  You have plenty of time to read it, as I won’t be reviewing it until the end of June.

So, what I want to know is, what else is everyone reading?  I have a pile of books so high by my bed, it is becoming ridiculous.  Among them are; ‘The King’s Curse’ by Philippa Gregory, ‘The Last Empress’ by Anchee Min (the sequel to Empress Orchid which I absolutely adored) ‘The Sense of Style, The Thinking Person’s guide to writing in the 21st Century’ by Steven Pinker (non-fiction, started….brilliant so far) and ‘The Signature of All Things’ by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I feel utterly overwhelmed just looking at them all.   Any tips for which ones I should get on with immediately?!   Anyone read any of them?  Care to comment?

Earlier this year I had a meeting with the people who published my dad’s life story that I wrote with him, Hachette Books Ireland.  As I was leaving they said, ‘oh would you like some books?’ and proceeded to fill two enormous bags with the latest bestsellers.  I can’t even look at them, as I break out into a sweat at all the books I have yet to read!  So if you need any books, you know where to come.  At least I won’t have to buy a book for at least the next year (maybe two!)

Anyway what are you reading? Please do tell.  I am also having a strange urge presently to read classic novels.  I think it was going to see ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ that did it.  I was reminded of what an amazing story teller Hardy was, and I want to dive back into Tess and all his other great stories.   Oh well, I will just have to take it one book at a time and learn how to speed read!