Review: Terry Hayes – I Am Pilgrim

I am pilgrimOh dear, I’m going to struggle to write an objective review about this book because…….I absolutely loved it. It’s got to be a contender for my book of the year. One of the most exciting things about I Am Pilgrim was the fact that my review copy came without a blurb. This meant that I had absolutely no idea what it was about. I’d picked up some ‘chat’ on twitter that it was a spy novel, and this whetted my appetite, but other than that I had no idea what to expect. But what a treat was in store for me.

The question is, how much do I reveal in my review? I’ve decided to break my blogging habit and tell you nothing about the content. Why? Well first of all, I’d love you to read the book, as I read it, without any preconceptions of what the novel is about. The book has a strong opening so I’m pretty sure that you’ll be hooked from the first page. Secondly, the plot is fairly complex and to summarise it would run the risk of spoiling the action as it unfolds. Part of the enjoyment for me were the twists and turns as the plot got going. There is a reasonably discreet summary on the Amazon website if you’re desperate for some more information.

Of course, I run a risk with this approach. First of all, I may be hyping a book that won’t be to everyone’s taste. However, if I say that the quotes at the front of the book are from Le Carré and Chandler, it will give you a flavour of the type of reader it will appeal to. The other problem with my approach is that it leaves me with precious little to write in a review. Without seeming too much of a tease, the central character is both intriguing and evokes empathy in the reader. There’s no romance in the book and yet much of the story is about family and love and conflict. And the plot is intricate, carefully drawn out and, towards the end, completely compelling.

At 700 pages long, I didn’t want the story to finish and I’d love to read more from this writer.

Thanks to Transworld for the copy of my book which is published on the 18th of this month.

47 thoughts on “Review: Terry Hayes – I Am Pilgrim

  1. Sarah, this sounds like a really interesting book. The thumbprint on the cover does suggest a work of espionage. I think I’ll check out the blurb on Amazon. I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a book more than 250-300 pages long, that’s as far as I can go.


  2. Avril

    Funny as it may seem, this is one of the BEST reviews I’ve read in a long time! Far too many bloggers can’t contain their excitement about a book they’ve just read and proceed to blab about it with no consideration for its future readers. You on the other hand have captured your immense enjoyment of I am Pilgrim without giving ANYTHING away and with a genuine longing for other readers to experience it with a fresh open mind ready to be absorbed by the plot as it unfolds to them for the first time. Thank you!!! I’m really looking forward to reading this book now and to reading more of your reviews 🙂


    1. Hi Avril – thanks for stopping by and commenting. Sorry it took so long to approve the comment – it seemed to slip through the system! I hope you enjoy the book too when you read it.


  3. vicki (skiourophile / bibliolathas)

    Oooh, this sounds so tempting – I’m even prepared to overlook that mention of SEVEN HUNDRED pages (at least the Kindle removes the problem of it being a thumb-killer!). 😉


  4. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – What a fine job you’ve done of getting me interested in this novel – and you really have! – while telling nothing about it. Now, that takes talent. I will have to look into it. And if you say such wonderful things about a book that’s that long, it’s just got to be a good ‘un.


  5. kathy d.

    Thanks for this recommendation. I don’t usually read espionage tales but I’ll look this one up further. And the 700 pages just gave me hives! But I’ll delve further and read more.
    That you’re so enthusiastic is a plus.


  6. kathy d.

    It would be a huge project to read a 700-page book. For some reason I’m reading slowly these days: Is it aging, I wonder as I used to zip through books so fast it made my head spin. Anyway, I will suggest this book to friends and put it on my TBR list.


  7. I am with Col, and a few other commenters. The 700 pages is the only snag. But if it is a very good espionage book, I am sure I will get to it. When, I don’t know.

    I am not sure why length bothers me so much nowadays. Just a couple of years ago I read Elizabeth George’s newest book at 600 plus pages, and I was only critical of that because I felt like a third of it was just too slow and blah. I use to love finding a very long book that I knew I would enjoy. Oh well, tastes change.

    I do love that you told us nothing (except that you loved it). I prefer to go in with no information, although that is a hard thing to do nowadays.


    1. I groaned when I saw the number of pages, Tracy but I didn’t want the book to finish. It’s great when that happens and this is shaping up to be my book of the year.


  8. Terry Hayes

    Hi Sarah, Thank you so much for a terrific review – and not giving away any of the plot! As you mention there are a lot of twists and turns and, from my point of view, it would be terrible to diminish the surprise of any of them. It certainly seems that you have started quite a discussion here about the length of the novel. All I can say is that we should all be thankful we are not in Germany. Because of the way their language works, the book is going to be in excess of 1100 pages! I have suggested to the retailers they give away a free trolley with each copy so that people can get it home but so far they haven’t bitten. Just kidding. I’m sure you did groan when you saw the length of it – but not half as much as I did when I was writing it. I can’t tell you how many times I thought that if I got paid per word all my troubles would be over. I think the real issue isn’t the lenght, but the pace. We have all read 200 page books that felt like swimming through treacle they were such a slog; and 900 page books that just flew by. Count of Monte Cristo and Shogun were two examples that worked for me. Of course the worst thing you can do as a writer is bore the reader, no matter how beautiful the actual prose may be, so I’m living in trepidation not about the length of the novel but to find out whether readers found it so compelling they just had to keep turning the page. Time will tell but I’ve got my fingers crossed. Again, thanks for your wonderful vote of confidence – now, I have to get back to dealing with the audio book. Christopher Ragland, the great actor who has taken on the job, has to read it aloud for EIGHT days straight! I’m sure he’s got a case full of throat lozenges and, while he has never mentioned it to me, I’m sure he’s another one who thought shorter might have been better. I’ll let you know if he still thinks that after he’s reached the end. Hopefully – like another early reader said – he’ll be wishing it had never ended. All the best – Terry


    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Terry. I often meet authors who say that they have read their reviews here. Few leave a comment though.

      When I started your book I actually tweeted something along the lines of groaning because if the length. It started a mini discussion about book length which I didn’t then follow as I was so absorbed in the first chapter. I can imagine the troubles in the other languages. I speak Greek and the Harry Potter books used to run to 2 volumes.

      It was an absolute pleasure to read your book and please tell me that you are writing another one.


      1. Terry Hayes

        Yes, Sarah – writing another thriller right now. Not a Pilgrim story and much shorter – 350 pages is the plan! Then there are two more volumes in the Pilgrim saga to finally complete his epic journey. Like you,I imagine – too much to do, not enough time! Must also thank you for the Book of the Month accolade – greatly appreciated. Only time will tell if it was deserved. I’m certainly hoping.


        1. Well, I’ll look forward to whatever you produce. Good luck with the writing and I’ll keep my fingers crossed in terms of sales for Pilgrim. I’m recommending it to everyone I meet.


          1. Hi Sarah,

            Would it be possible to find out when the I Am Pilgrim audiobook version will be available?

            Your review of the book means I’ll definitely be reading the book as soon as possible.




            1. I will try and find out for you Andre. The author has mentioned the audio book here and hopefully, if he sees your comment, he can let you know. I will also ask the publisher for you.


            2. Terry Hayes

              Hi Andre and Sarah,

              Yes, the dreaded author has seen the post! Happy to report that I got an email from Christopher Ragland, the terrific actor who is recording the book and he tells me they finished – after eight days’ non-stop voice work – late on Friday. The audio version should be out about three weeks after the print launch – so about August 8. That is the plan but it might slip a little either way. Cheers – Terry.


              1. Thanks Terry. I was hoping you’d see the question. The audio book should prove a cracking experience. I’ll keep an eye out for it and tweet when it’s available.


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  10. OK Sarah, it had better be good! LIke everyone else I’m groaning at the thought of the length, but you’ve totally convinced me I have to read it…. You hold mine and everyone’s trust in your hand. (But we do trust you, which is why I will go with it…) Great way to tempt everyone with that intriguing review.


  11. Alex

    Having just finished a novel I ‘m holding off reaching for a new one in anticipation of I Am Pilgrim. An unsettling period without book, twiddling my thumbs on the train to work! I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait. Will there be any signings?


    1. Hi Alex. Another question for the author I’m afraid. I *think* he’s based in Australia so not sure if he has any UK signings planned. I’m off to Harrogate festival next week-end. I’ll track down a publicist from Trasnworld and ask them.


      1. Terry Hayes

        Hi Alex, Sarah – yes down here in Sydney for family reasons at the moment. So I’m sorry to say no signings – would have loved to have been able to do them and say hello to readers in person. The plan is to be there in UK next spring and do them for the paperback launch. More than happy to sign a dog-eared copy of the hardback then, Alex, if you don’t mind waiting! For anyone really bored – I’m supposed to be on the BBC Today program next Wednesday morning being interviewed by Will Gompertz. Apparently they really like the book too. Cheers, Terry.


        1. Will look forward to the spring, Terry. I won’t have any dog-eared copies of your book to sign as I’ve given both of the copies that were sent to me away to readers I think will love your book. Congrats on the Today programme gig. If you’re on early enough I should catch you. Otherwise will try iplayer.


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