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Review: The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen

Review: The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen

This is literary thriller writing of the first order, and it is no surprise that Miramax snapped up the film rights. Jamie Dornan of Fifty Shades of Grey fame, stars. Here's our review.

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What makes Liz Jensen's remarkable narrative so compelling in The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, is her gift for idiosyncratic characterisation—particularly of the strange, damaged boy at the centre of the novel.

Louis is very different from other children. He’s brilliant but perhaps over-imaginative, and prone to a series of strange, violent incidents. At a picnic with his parents on his ninth birthday, he takes a seemingly fatal tumble over a cliff under mysterious circumstances.

Subsequently, his distraught mother is having difficulty coping, while his father disappears. Then Louis suddenly reappears—alive, but in a coma at Dr Pascal Dannachet’s clinic. We learn what actually happened to the boy: through a series of disclosures, each progressively more startling than the one before.

This is essentially a psychological thriller in which Jensen cleverly juggles two perspectives: that of Louis in his coma, and that of his doctor. The latter is heavily conflicted, having fallen in love with the injured boy’s vulnerable mother, presenting him with both troubling professional and personal problems.

The French police undertake a search for Louis’ father, the principal suspect in the boy’s fall. Bizarrely, there is another character involved: Gustave, the boy’s imaginary companion, swathed in bandages.

What is difficult to convey in any review is a sense of how the reader is constantly wrong-footed by the strange, shifting tone of this novel, in which black humour always plays a part.

One thing, however, can be stated with confidence: it is unlikely that you will read anything else quite like The Ninth Life of Louis Drax.



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