The Ninth Life of Louis Drax
by Liz Jensen.
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax tells the story of accident-prone 9-year-old Louis Drax, who is now in a coma. It’s told alternately from his point of view, and the point of view of the doctor hoping to wake him up. The story begins shortly after Louis’ most recent accident, which left him comatose and his father missing. The only awake and available person who knows what really happened is his mother. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that things are not as they seem – and not always explainable. It’s part mystery, part drama, and part magical realism.
The quality of the writing in this book is quite good. The author has imparted a surreal, almost eerie feeling throughout. Moreover, she has convincingly captured the voices of both a disturbed nine-year-old, and a middle-aged French man. Writing in first-person POV when the character is a child is particularly hard to pull off well, but Jensen does it well.
Content-wise, the pace starts out pretty slow. It does pick up farther into the book, which is good. For the most part, the mystery/thriller aspect is handled well, walking the fine balance between giving us enough to pick up on but not making things super obvious (with one glaring exception to this in the matter of the notes). There are some nice surprises and turnabouts. There’s a character who initially appears quite sinister and another who seems a bit off but harmless, but neither ends up being what you’d expect.
As for the magical realism bits… well, one side of them was well-done, but the other side I didn’t really see much of a point to (other than a reveal that could’ve been done many other ways). That, plus some ill-advised romantic interludes put a touch of a sour note on the story, but overall it was still a good read.
This was the most recent pick for the book club I go to, and the consensus was that everyone found it interesting, in a positive way. It’s a pretty quick read, too. If you’re looking for some contemporary light thriller fare, this is a good bet.