Friday, 1 July 2016

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen

ReviewerJJ Marsh

What We Thought: A strange mixture of psychological detective story and disturbing exploration of the human mind.

Louis Drax has a superbly intelligent but skewed view of the world. He knows more about his parents’ relationship(s) than they do and knows he adds to their problems. He’s accident-prone and has used up, according to his mother, eight of his nine lives. When the family celebrate Louis’s ninth birthday with a picnic, Louis falls into a ravine. Life no. 9.

Louis, in a coma, narrates his experience with the same keen observation as when he was awake. In his coma, with Gustave who lives in his head, he feels comfortable. He feels safe.

Dr Dannachet tries to coax him back to the world of life, where he makes his mother cry, where his father is absent, where his peers call him Wacko Boy and where he has to spend an hour a week with Fat Perez, talking about his feelings.

This book is deeply moving and upsets every kind of expectation. Yet creates characters you cannot help but embrace. The confrontation between medicine and mind throws up questions about ethics and personal principle, while telling a fascinating human story.

The film’s out soon and I’m intrigued to see how such an internal novel can be made 3D. Read it quick, before the film comes out, so over post-cinema nachos, you can claim the higher ground.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, Mailbox by Nancy Freund, Wild Boy by Jill Dawson

Avoid if you don’t like: Unusual storytelling, psychological uncertainties, difference

Ideal accompaniments: Tonic water, saucisson sec and Astor Piazzolla’s Soledad

Genre: Contemporary, literary fiction

Available on Amazon

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