Nobody I Know

Fiction - Literary
496 Pages
Reviewed on 12/26/2018
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Author Biography

I am from the West of Ireland, but I only spent a few years of my childhood there before I joined my parents who had emigrated to England. After spending a few years in that country, I moved to France and I have now lived in Paris for many years. 'Nobody I Know' is my fifth novel. What usually impels me to start a new novel is a scene that sticks in my mind and then begins to obsess me. The scene that started this one was of a man suddenly realizing in a rest room that he no longer remembers his mother tongue and who then realizes, very quickly that he no longer knows who he is and that he is in a very unorthodox psychiatric institution. The character of the other main protagonist in the novel was inspired, if that is the right word, by learning how psychologists belonging to the American Psychological Association had helped the CIA to develop enhanced interrogation techniques (i.e. torture techniques) to use in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. The novel takes place in Paris.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Nobody I Know by John J Gaynard is a cynical, farcical look at mental health issues through the prism of extremism and the eyes of Patient XYJ, who doesn’t remember who he is, or indeed why he has been for the past eight years in a psychiatric institution, colloquially known as the “Black House”. Like all the returning jihadists whom former CIA interrogator and psychiatrist Dr O’Neill has treated in the past with unusual success, Patient XYJ is subjected to inhumane treatment, scorn and ridicule by O’Neill. He uses patients merely to progress his own ambitions and wealth rather than from any innate desire to heal or to reintegrate previously violent and disturbed patients back into society. When Patsy Burke emerges from the toilet, he has no idea who he is or where he is, beyond that he is being held in a mental institution against his will. He has no recollection of the various personas he has adopted over the past eight years of custody, and he must find a way to rediscover his identity and destroy the hold the evil Dr O’Neill has over him.

I can honestly say that Nobody I Know is the most unusual, slightly disturbing, but eminently readable book I have been lucky enough to read in the past few years. Author John J Gaynard has reached into the depths of the human mind and provided a thought-provoking treatise on mental health, attitudes to mental health and, in general, the human condition. By using the absolute polar extreme of a mental institution run by a “mad doctor” along with a procession of “crazy” trustee patients, Gaynard has made readers focus on our attitudes not just to mental health, but life in general. Totally topical and up to date in its current world focus, the book uses Patsy Burke to explore what can happen when essentially good people fall apart mentally.

At times the narrative is harrowing and difficult to stomach, but the message is loud and clear and, if nothing else, this focus on the behaviour and excesses of both characters, Burke and O’Neill, presents two sides of the same coin for readers to consider. Who is the sane one here and who is the insane one? Because of the nature of the narrative, the characters are necessarily overdrawn to the point of caricature, but this is wonderfully well done by the author. I particularly liked the connections between the characters in the story and historical figures. This is a book that leaves you thinking and asking yourself questions long after you put it down and that is probably the highest praise I can give this author.

Samantha Gregory

Nobody I Know by John J. Gaynard is an unusual tale indeed. It opens with a man in a bathroom, who is dressed in strange clothes and a diaper! He has no idea why he is there and there are women banging on the door, eager to see him. I think the opening was a good way to draw readers in as it introduces them to the main characters and makes them wonder what the heck is going on. From there, we learn about the work of Professor J. O'Neill and his role in everything that is going on. I think by having the character unaware of what is going on around him in the beginning, it helps the reader learn about his world without the need to dump a lot of information. We are finding out the truth about his life as he does.

John. J. Gaynard has written an interesting tale in Nobody I Know, one that delves into the human mind. I think this would appeal to fans of psychological stories and I think it will do well on the market. It has a good hook and it kept me reading to find out more. I have always loved psychology and it is amazing what the human brain is capable of and what can go wrong with it! It makes you think about how suggestions can impact the brain and affect people. The characters are well written and certainly memorable. I would definitely recommend this book. Nobody I Know by John J. Gaynard is an entertaining read.

Rabia Tanveer

Nobody I Know by John J. Gaynard is a dark fiction story in which a psychiatrist is trying to fix a man who might be incapable of being fixed. While reading the novel in the first person narrative was a little difficult for me at the beginning, the more I read, the more I understood the need for that. Our protagonist is a man who does not have a single identity, yet he is a highly intelligent man with many faces to show. I enjoyed how the character lets his self show, even though he tries his level best to simply hide.

Professor J. O’Neill was all the rage back when he worked with the CIA to develop new interrogation techniques, but when the word got around, he lost his co-workers’ respect. Now back in France, he is working on his techniques on Jihadist delinquents in the form of therapy and rehabilitation. However, his biggest challenge is a man who seems to have too many faces. His identities change with the day and there seems to be no therapy that might work on him. What can O’Neill do to win this man over? Will this man will show a new reality to O’Neill?

This novel was so raw and real at times that I had a hard time reading it. I had to stop, compose myself, and then read on. John J. Gaynard didn’t pull any punches when it came to writing a dark novel that came through in the best way possible. I could not understand the cover design, but towards the end, I realized the need for such a violent cover. To say that I enjoyed this novel would be a complete understatement. Dramatic and very enjoyable!