Cover image of "I Saw a Man," a novel that makes it clear it's literature

Some writer or critic — I forget who; it was somebody who gravitates to Literature with a capital “L” — defined the content of a novel as “something happens.” The late Joseph Heller even wrote a novel with that title. (Not a good one, actually.) Stuff happens in Owen Sheers’ I Saw a Man, but it’s just not very interesting stuff because the story drags on so . . . very . . . slowly . . . that when something happens, I’m ready for the next thing to come along without my having to wade through all the tortured internal dialogue Sheers loves so much. In other words, this novel seems to be an attempt to create Literature along the lines of those books that tend to win the Booker Prize, which I generally find tedious.

A more generous critic might categorize this novel as a murder mystery. There’s enough death in it to qualify, and, truth to tell, there are surprises here, too. The problem is, when I finally got to those points, I didn’t care all that much.

I recognize that the author was probably reaching for insight about the human condition. Maybe other readers will find that in I Saw a Man. I didn’t. It seemed to me that Sheers was simply trying to work something out in his own mind, readers be damned.


I Saw A Man by Owen Sheers ★★★☆☆


Oh, and by the way: I’m not sure where the title comes from. It doesn’t seem to fit the plot. Maybe it refers to something that should have happened but didn’t. Or even something I should have picked up on but fell asleep instead.

My opinions notwithstanding, Owen Sheers has won numerous literary awards. He’s also a poet, an actor, and a TV presenter. He’s Welsh (which might mean something to readers in Britain). Sheers is a young man — just 40 at this writing — so maybe he’ll learn to write for readers instead of himself and come up with more interesting books in the future.

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