The Man Who Saw Everything – Deborah Levy


Chosen by Rachel

A man who is hit by a vehicle on Abbey Road represents the difficulty of seeing oneself and others clearly.

✚ “In the opening pages of The Man Who Saw Everything, Saul Adler, a young historian, steps onto the famous Abbey Road pedestrian crossing and is hit by a vehicle. This is the key event of the story, against which everything else should be measured.

“The importance of this accident is not apparent at first. The first 14 chapters are easy to read and narrated in a naturalistic, chronological style. The story then moves to a more impressionistic vernacular that is less linear as both we, the reader, and the people in Saul’s life begin to tie together loose ends.

“Set in 1988 and 2016, in England and in the German Democratic Republic, the novel contains a series of flashbacks and flashforwards, as Saul attempts to make sense of his life and its events via a lens of fractured dreams and memories. I found the intrigue built slowly but intensely as the true extent of Saul’s narcissistic tendencies are realised.

The Man Who Saw Everything is not a difficult read, though there is some after thought required to piece together all the puzzle pieces and establish exactly what happened. I did follow the plot and thought the delivery of it was brilliant, but have to admit there were a few surprises for me still when I got online to check for the stylistic complexities I may have missed.

“This is the kind of book I love, a seemingly simple story with much depth and guesswork required. A book that keeps on giving the more you think about it! Imho it should have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, as it was for the Goldsmith Prize.” – Rachel

I had lost my job. I was no longer officially a minor historian. Perhaps I was history itself, flailing around in a number of directions, sometimes all of them at the same time.

✚ “First impressions count, and I was immediately attracted to The Man Who Saw Everything by the cover and the title. And from the opening pages I did think it held great promise with an interesting relationship between the main character Saul and his girlfriend Jennifer. Plus the strange incident on Abbey Road where Saul is hit by a vehicle adds to the intrigue.

“However from here I found the book difficult to read. As I got further into the story I felt it lacked a discernible plot and often seemed rambling and dull. Also the dialogue between characters did not resonate with me. From having so much potential to ending with a sense of disappointment I was left feeling like I didn’t get this one at all.” – Becks

✚ “The Man Who Saw Everything is written to a high standard. It is, in fact, an incredibly cleverly written piece of art. It is beautiful to read and the characters drew me in from the outset. Unfortunately, however, I found much of the plot intricacies went over my head. It is definitely a book I would consider re-reading and studying more indepthly. Would I recommend this to a friend? Yes I would. Though to a friend who appreciates the art of writing, not as a relaxing summer read!” – Sonya

✚ “Since finishing The Man Who Saw Everything I have thought about the book a fair bit, in that I feel like I need to investigate it further and re-read. Trying to navigate my way through the narrative was tricky – which parts was Saul dreaming, what were hallucinations, what was imagination and what was real? To be honest I’m not sure what to make of this book!” – Jodie

✚ “Like many books I’ve read The Man Who Saw Everything went somewhat over my head. It wasn’t until we had some researched answers on the book’s construction that I understood more about the story and appreciated it’s complexity.

“The book was weird and wonderful and I did enjoy it, but I probably would have enjoyed it more if I’d read it rather than listened to it on Audible. I won’t be listening to another book as it has the ability to ruin what may have otherwise been a pleasurable reading experience. In this case the narrator’s voice was one I didn’t like and the medium was not for me!

“I wouldn’t recommend The Man Who Saw Everything to a friend without an explanation of the central plot as I think that would increase reader pleasure.” – Jo

Published 2019
Bloomsberry Publishing
199 pages


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