Image Credit : Fantastic Fiction.
It's surprising the gems that I suddenly find on my bookshelf. I seem to have bought Liz Jensen's The Ninth Life of Louis Drax almost five years ago. And for some inexplicable reason, never got around to reading it. Last week though, I picked it up after Home. I still am reading A Dog Called Henry, which is tediously being turned over, one page at a time, one day at a time, but in the meantime Louis' fascinating story just flew!
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax has been described as a 'psychological thriller,' but that is too easy a classification. Jensen explores so much of the darker mysteries of the human mind, and questions the existence of the soul. How much do we know the mind? Its powers? Its almost incalculable mystery? But she also makes us question the limitations of human behavior, and the conditions we impose on it. Louis, who narrates part of the story, apart from Dr Dannachet, is a 'Disturbed Boy.' Involved in a series of accidents from the time he was born, Louis in what seems his final accident is pushed down a ravine, ostensibly by his father, while his horrified mother looks on.
Pronounced dead by doctors at the hospital, he defies medical science by resurrecting himself, a la Lazarus at the autopsy table. Louis, however, slips into a deep coma, and that is what brings him to Dr Dannachet, apparently a renowned doctor with coma cases. I feel that the research here is a bit sketchy - the eminent doctor does not really seem to show just why he is so good with coma cases. If sitting down and talking with comatose patients were to do the trick that is. But here is the mystery that Liz Jensen invites the reader to solve : what happened to Louis? What happened that day at the family picnic when Louis slipped down the ravine? Where is his Dad?
It's not that difficult to figure out the person behind the mystery, but Jensen does weave in a few deft touches here and there, including Dr Dannachet's sleepwalking-telepathic-communication with Louis. That was new. But even if you can spot the 'who did it' a long while back, the book still remains a page-turner. Jensen has managed to use Louis' nine-year old voice very well, and has fleshed out the boy's character superbly. The other narrator, Dr Dannachet, is really an irritant - for a doctor, he has way too many problems of his own, and his obvious failure as a doctor start to rankle. But Jensen raises quite a few moral issues - and that is what makes us recoil our own judgmental principles, and read into the often appalling picture of humankind that Jensen invites us to see.
Verdict: Page-turning thriller. (Ok, I got scared while reading in the night. Ok, I really did not want to read it in the night. Ok, Louis scared me! Hush..)
Rating : 3.5/5