Van has finished reading… The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

3 May

immortalists

The cover of Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists poses an arresting question: if you knew the day you were going to die how would you choose to live?

Children Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya visit a fortune-teller because Daniel has heard she can tell you when you’ll die but what seemed like a good idea beforehand doesn’t appeal so much when the knowledge can’t be given back. Especially when the seemingly endless stretch of time laid out in front of a child is horribly shorter than expected.

We follow each of the siblings in turn, building each time to the cruel punchline, wondering if each of the prophesies will come true, and wondering – even dreading – how the end might come about. And here’s the cleverness of the device because time and again it questions whether the prophesy is the means or the end. it’s the choice between living while you can, or else waiting to see if it comes true. Not so much how you would choose to live as whether.

It’s really all about the characters and how well the author connects the reader with each one. Klara is a standout for me, a perfect mix of magic, verve and frailty and I particularly enjoyed the subtle touch of naming her signature stage act The Jaws of Life, rather than the more tantalising Jaws Of Death. Then there’s the solid writing that back those characters up, the neatness and control. Towards the end of the book there’s some lovely interplay that lends seemingly the blandest of lines with emotional punch. ‘Not exceptional, but steady. Solid.’

And I love the ending. It’s joyous and emotional frames the fact that while this is a book about living and not living, it’s not a book about death. Above everything else it throws that central question into the sharpest of relief in the simplest way possible – leaving it unanswered.

 

The Immortalists was published by Tinder Press on 8th march 2018 ISBN:9781472244987

You can find Chloe on Twitter @chloekbenjamin or at her website, www.chloebenjaminbooks.com

 

My thanks to Caitlin Raynor at Headline for allowing me to review this book

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