Oct 27, 2009

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax

Liz Jensen

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (21 Jun 2004)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0747571066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747571063
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.6 x 2.8 cm 
  • Average Amazon rating: 4/5 (and I would give it the same)
I didn't read anything by Liz Jensen before, though I heard quite some stuff about her recently published The Rapture. Now that I have read this one, The Rapture is launched straight to the top of my wishlist. 

Louis Drax is an accident-prone nine year old boy from Lyon. Strange things happen to him; he is obsessed with death, strange animals, poisons and raping. Mysteries are built around his young life. After having eight close-to-death experiences, one for each year of his life, the ninth changes the course of several lives. One day, onhis ninth birthday, he goes to a picnic with his parents. There a horrible accident happens. Louis falls off a cliff and survives, but is in a deep coma. His father disappears in the ravine too and the only witness is his mother, who seems to hide shocking secrets herself.
He is taken to a specialized clinic in Provence to be under surveillance of Dr Dannachet, one of the best neurologists in France. Soon, strange things start to happen. People in coma don't communicate, let alone write threatening letters to their mother and doctor. Or do they?

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax was a chilling reading experience. It was unsettling and disturbing. Its' written from the perspective of Louis and Dr Dannchet, and their voices mingle and succeed each other through the book. The voice of Louis is the frightening one. Following his thoughts was a pretty creepy experience. Imagine a child in coma having a friend wrapped in bloody bandages who leads him through the labyrinths of his mind on the subconscious level. It should have been obvious from the beginning who Gustave was, but it's another of the shocking moments that this book is full of. Louis sometimes seems to have a too ripe voice for a nine year old child, but as the story unveils, you realize it's not much of a surprise that Louis is thinking about these things.
Dr Dannachet is a character that grows through the story, and goes through a life-turning experience. Falling in love with Louis' mother was the last thing he needs-and the one thing he can't resist.He is torn inside and Liz did a great job describing the turmoil in his soul. Here is one paragraph that  perfectly catches what he feels:

"A mixture of feelings-love, distaste, revulsion, pity-rose in my throat like vomit. There was an eternity to that moment, that see-sawing split-second when adoration clung and then lurched, spilling into chaos, rage, hate, anger; the desire to smash and embrace, love and destroy. Betrayal does that. Forces the clash of belief and disbelief. Shows you how worthless love is, when its object is indifferent, ruthless, no more than a machine for surviving." p 210

So, I don't want to give away spoilers, since every small detail I tell you may ruin your reading. But I'll just say that the thematic is being taken on a whole new level and the ending is everything but predictable. Liz has a beautiful writing voice and provides a narrative that will grip you from the first sentence. That's one I'd like to share. The only titled chapter is the first one. You have three chances to guess; it's titled WARNING:

"I'm not most kids. I'm Louis Drax. Stuff happens to me that shouldn't happen, like going on a picnic where you drown." p 1
Now, if that's not a killing first line...

Liz Jensen keeps shocking you on every single page without watering down the story.  The only reason I'd rate the book 4/5 is that I believe there is plenty of space to flesh it out further. It hangs somewhere in between, and I'd love it to be at least a bit darker to fully capture the spirit of the incident.

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax is a fast-paced and extremely exciting thriller that will have you bound to the book from the very beginning. It takes you on a tour through the maze of your subconscious and raises lots of questions. I highly recommend it and I'm looking forward to read some more by Liz Jensen.

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