Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen

What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen tells an extraordinary story: after being infertile and on hormone replacement therapy since the age of 30, forty-four-year-old Cohen begins experiencing mysterious symptoms that lead her to suspect she has cancer. Doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with her for months until an emergency CAT scan finally reveals the truth: Cohen is six months pregnant. Cohen is a playwright and solo theatre artist with an adoptive daughter and a wonderful fiancĂ© who is 10 years her junior. Being pregnant at that point in her life was definitely not part of her plan. (And what I’ve mentioned so far is just the tip of the iceberg of craziness that is this pregnancy.) What I Thought I Knew is an engrossing read—once I started the book, I didn’t want to put it down. Cohen structures her memoir much like a play—it’s written in three acts, which are in turn divided into multiple scenes—and this gives the story both immediacy and power. Throughout the book she also makes lists of what she knows, which only serve to highlight how much in fact she doesn’t know about what’s going on. Still, her dark humour and wit only worked to a point—they occasionally felt forced to me, like she was trying too hard. In contrast, my favourite parts of the book were the solo theatre sections, which deal with the one class she continued to teach throughout this period. Cohen writes the story of her student Dani Athena with a quiet thoughtfulness that I wished she had applied more often to her own story, which instead builds to a near-hysterical pitch. Nevertheless, I admire Cohen for being so honest and upfront about what she went through during this very difficult period of her life. Her story is definitely one that deserves to be heard.

What I Thought I Knew won the Elle Magazine Literary Grand Prix for Nonfiction in 2009.

Thank you to BookSparks PR and Penguin USA for sending me this book to review.

BookSparks PR organized a blog tour of What I Thought I Knew from October to December:


Entertainment RealmAlways with a Book5 Minutes for BooksThe Book ChickMy Book ViewsReading at the BeachChocolate RealityLuxury Reading (spoiler alert!) • BookfancindyREADSBless Their Hearts MomTeresa’s Reading CornerBooking Mama (spoiler alert!) • Schlough’s Bookshelf ReviewBooks and NeedlepointSharon’s Garden of Book Reviews (spoiler alert!) • All about {n}The Divining WandRundpinneChick Lit CentralBermudaonion’s WeblogBookNAround (review & interview) • Book Addiction’Til We Read AgainA Bookworm’s World (review & guest post) • Books, Movies & Chinese FoodCrazy for BooksBookhoundsAt Home with BooksEveryday I Write the Book (spoiler alert!) • Books and MoviesBookin’ with Bingo (review & interview)

Guest posts:

Parking Lot ConfessionalMy Book ViewsReading at the BeachChocolate RealityLuxury ReadingBless Their Hearts MomBook End BabesBooking MamaBooks and NeedlepointThe Eclectic Reader (interview & giveaway) • Lori’s Reading CornerThe Page 99 Test

Interviews with the author:

AuthorScoopmom logicChocolate RealityTeresa’s Reading CornerThe Divining WandChick Lit Central

Other reviews: Shhh I’m ReadingOf Books and Reading

Excerpt from the book: The New York Times


  1. I recently won this memoir and hope to read it very soon at which point I'll be back to read your review in full!

    It sounds like a riveting story.

  2. I am intrigued by what else happens in the book now. I find it amazing that people don't know they are pregnant.

  3. That would be some sort of shock!

  4. Thank you so much for this thoughtful review - the only review of the book that mentions the story of my student, Dani Athena. Dani plays such an important role in the book, and she meant so much to me, personally; I am very grateful that you talk about her story.
    Thanks also for including links to the other reviews, interviews and author posts on my current Book Blog Tour!
    I'm honored and delighted to have my book featured on SHE READS AND READS

  5. How interesting that she structures her story like a play in three acts! It sounds like a different and absorbing memoir. Terrific review!

  6. This is one that I hope to stumble across at my library next year. Great review!

  7. Wonderful review! I thought this book was great, too! What a story - you'd think things like that wouldn't happen in this day and age.

  8. Avis, that was a wonderful review! Despite the flaws you mention, I'm interested. You are an excellent writer yourself!

  9. I just won this book and just can't wait to read it.

  10. This book has been on my to-read list - thanks for the review. It sounds like I may bump it up to one of the next few I'm going to read.

  11. I do enjoy a good memoir and have been hearing quite a lot of buzz about this one lately.