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Unknown: A Novel Paperback – Jan 12 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (Jan. 12 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014311901X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143119012
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,125,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"A convincing little nightmare. A Twilight Zone-ish yarn that tests the very notion of how human identity is shaped."
-Entertainment Weekly

"Simply thrilling. Its surprising denoument works a retrospective magic."
-The New York Times Book Review

"Compelling ... The terse prose is unpretentious and the plot is full of captivating twists."
-San Francisco Chronicle

"An engaging intellectual page-turner."
-Rain Taxi

"Had Camus trained at the CIA, this is the book he would have written. A hauntingly literary espionage thriller."
-Brad Thor, author of State of the Union

"Van Cauwelaert starts with a premise that could serve a Hitchcock thriller, a Twilight Zone episode, or a heavy-going exercise in existentialism. But [he] nimbly sidesteps clichT and pretense.... The swift final scene-a breathtaking jetT-should surprise even the most jaded fan of thrillers. A little gem."
-Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Mark Polizzotti is the translator of more than thirty books from the French. His articles and reviews have appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The Nation. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa9474504) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa94ae834) out of 5 stars I Wish I Had Known About This When it Was Published Years Ago! March 17 2011
By James N Simpson - Published on
Format: Paperback
Unknown is a reprint of the 2004 published Out of My Head with the movie poster for a book cover and movie's name replacing the original title. I certainly missed knowing about the original book when it came out, so am glad the publishers did this, or I would have missed out on a great book. I haven't seen the movie so can't compare the two, however this is a very, very good book, a sort of Harlan Coben style plot where as a reader you go along with the narrator on his journey of confusion, frustration and every other feeling he goes through as he tries to discover what is going on and why it is happening to him. Basically the plot revolves around Martin Harris, a brilliant botanist scientist, whose about to revolutionise the world with his work, that's why he just moved to Paris with his wife. However he's involved in a taxi crash which leaves him in a coma for three days. No one comes to visit him during the recovery days which is a little annoying, but nothing compared to the stress Martin goes through when he knocks on his door and another man is living in his apartment. The angry man claims to be him and his wife supports this. Since Martin never got to know his new neighbours they along with the police all assume Martin is some sort of con artist or escaped mental patient. Martin knows who he is and is determined to prove this fact and reclaim his life.

This is a short read, a novella of 164 pages that you just won't want to put down. The ending comes and wraps up quickly in just a few pages, which is my only criticism of what up to then I would have labelled one of the best books I've read in a long time. It also sort of feels rushed in coming up as a how to end this brilliant up to then story solution. I'm interested now in checking out the movie just to see if it ends a bit better and clearer than the book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa94ae888) out of 5 stars captivating mystery March 11 2011
By Alla S. - Published on
Format: Paperback
Unknown by Dieter van Cauwelaert is a psychological thriller that revolves around Martin Harris--an American botanist who arrives in Paris for a conference, only for his taxi to get into an accident which leads Harris into a coma. After waking up from his coma, Harris goes up to where he's staying with his wife, only to see that another man has taken his place and is claiming to be the botanist Martin Harris.

Ok, so this came out in the movie theaters recently with Liam Neeson starring as Martin Harris, January Jones as the wife, and Helen Kruger as the taxi driver. Also the movie takes place in Berlin instead of Paris. But nevertheless, I'm always interested in what makes one book into a movie, while other books remain books. And reading the story, I can understand why Hollywood came calling.

First of all, the core of the book is a deep psychological mystery. What's it like to have another person living your life? Having the exact same childhood, spouse, and profession? At first glance, this may seem like a science fiction type set-up. But the good thing about this story is there's no fantasy involved. Everything is very real. The story pulls you in, and you walk alongside Harris--feeling the same emotions of confusion and anger as he does. The author makes it clear that something sinister is going on, but keeps you clueless until the end.

Another good aspect of this book were the characters. As the main character, Martin Harris is sympathetic. As he runs to the police and tries to speak to his wife, no one believes him, except for the taxi driver--another sympathetic character who is a single mother and in danger of losing her taxi license after the crash. In balance to the sympathetic characters, we have the shadowy characters--like Harris' wife, and Martin Harris #2.

Overall, this was a decent European thriller. It's super short and quick to read. There's no superfluous information, it's all about the main plot. For me, it was an enjoyable read. Looking forward to seeing the movie.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa94aecc0) out of 5 stars Identity Theft Gone Horribly Wrong! April 12 2012
By Squeak - Published on
I listened to this story as an audiobook, narrated by Bronson Pinchot, so my review is based on that version.

Martin Harris believes he is the victim of identity theft. He awakes after being in a car accident that left him in a coma for a few days. Things are a bit fuzzy for Martin. He remembers who he is; the problem is that someone else thinks they are him also. But who is the actual Martin Harris? How do you prove you are you who you think you are when someone else has all the documentation proving they are you? Since Martin's accident happened on the day he and his wife had moved to France, there are no neighbors who can vouch for him. Since he is married, the easiest way would be to ask his wife. When his wife says he is not the real Martin Harris he is left dumbfounded.

Convinced his wife is having an affair and this is just her way of getting back at him for being a lousy husband, Martin continues to try and convince people he is the real Martin Harris. As everything starts rolling in against him, he starts to doubt himself. But if he isn't Martin Harris, then who is he and how did he get all of Martin's memories?

I really enjoyed this story. I wasn't sure if Martin was really Martin or there was some really weird scientific experimentation going on with this man's brain. If he was really Martin then why would his wife deny it? If he wasn't, then how did he get all the memories and what not? I wasn't sure if the author was going to dip into the paranormal side to solve the mystery or not! This is one of these stories that even after the `big reveal' I wanted to go back and listen to it again.

Narration Review:
This audiobook was narrated by Bronson Pinchot and it was the first time that I have listened to his narration. Since the story took place in France, most of the characters had a French accent or spoke in French. Bronson did an excellent job with all of his character voices giving them the much renown French swagger that you hear in the voices of the French speaking English for your convenience. During the dialog, he switched from the French speaking accent to the English speaking accent effortlessly. His narration is one that makes you forget that you are listening to only one person doing the narration. He is his own full cast!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa94aec3c) out of 5 stars That's it? Really? Sept. 3 2011
By E. Truman - Published on
Format: Paperback
Through the first 100 or so pages of this book I kept thinking to myself - boy I can't wait to lend this out to my friends! They'll love it! But after finishing the entire novella, I think this one will be staying on my shelf. Not because it was a great book, but because I can't see myself recommending it to anyone.

The first 100 pages (about 3/4 of the book) WERE great. The author uses a stream of consciousness style of writing that sucks the reader in. It's a true suspense story - the reader meets a man just out of a coma who learns someone has taken over his identity. The who, what, when, where and why are begging to be answered... but when they are, the reader is left with a "that's it, really?" feeling. Which is a shame.
HASH(0xa94c0180) out of 5 stars I was disappointed with the book overall July 10 2016
By Sasha Monique - Published on
Format: Paperback
This was one of the books I got during my Barnes and Noble haul online. Now I'm actually dreading reading this right now. I don't even want to write this blog post. Its not that I'm lazy but it literally made me want to return this book back to Barnes & Noble. I was disappointed with the book overall.
This book made me want to throw it on to the train tracks. I didnt want to complete this book; I got it because I thought it would be just as good as the movie. But I was wrong, dead wrong. So given that this post will be very short.
The reasons why I personally dislike this book it goes as followed,
1) It was boring. It did not hold my attention at all. I expected it to be like the movie, guess not.
2) Everything just started. It really didn't give me much to read and work with.
3) It wasn't anything like the movie.
Give that onto the rating we go. I actually rated this book of 2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. Keep this in mind this book has roughly 3.5 stars overall. Thanks again for reading!