United By Pop received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are our own.
Title: The Ninth Life of Louis Drax
Author: Liz Jensen
Overall rating: 2/5 stars
Great for: Lovers of complex literary fiction and in-depth character studies.
Themes: Family, mental illness, contemporary, fantasy.
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Review: My shallow self was immediately sold by the captivating cover on this book. Upon learning this was being adapted into a film, my interest was even further piqued. However, this ended up becoming a puzzling yet ultimately forgettable read, for me.
Nine-year-old Louis Drax is so accident prone that he should be dead nine times over! He has continued to baffle doctors and scientists with his unfailing will to live, despite the accidents and mishaps that have plagued his young life. The story commences upon his ninth chance at life.
During a family picnic, Louis falls down a cliff face and is submerged into a coma. The accident, which is shrouded in mystery, plagues his emotionally traumatised mother and the coma specialist, Dr Pascal Dannachet, who are attempting to coax him back to the land of the living.
Certain facets of the story completely captivated me – the beauty of the writing, the uniqueness of idea, the struggle to find the kernel of truth amongst the mingling and often opposing narrative viewpoints, the layering of reality – but others distanced and distracted me from the plot’s trajectory. I found the oddness of this book became its own undoing. I adore odd fiction, but this became too difficult to discern, in areas, and ultimately sequestered me from all empathy with the characters.
The narrative style was another peculiarity. Instead of the expected, standardised usage of speech marks to indicate portions of dialogue, a hyphen was used in its place. I often forgot who was speaking and where each portion of speech ended. I normally applaud those who take a creative approach to their writing, but this seemed a pointless addition and, at least in my case, only further distanced the reader.
This, added with the unlikable aspects of the nature of every character, made me rather blase about the plot’s culmination. If I can’t empathise with the characters how am I supposed to care about them? There was a rather shocking grand reveal that rectified these feelings, somewhat, but by that point, I felt only a portion of the emotions that should have been elicited from me, as reader.
This is undoubtedly a very powerful book, but it also seems to be a very polarising one. Have you read it? What were your thoughts on it? Share with the UBP team in the comments section down below.