BookBrowse Reviews The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen

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The Ninth Life of Louis Drax

A Novel

by Liz Jensen

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen X
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2005, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2006, 240 pages

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A darkly humorous novel compared to The Lovely Bones

From the book jacket: Louis Drax is a boy like no other. He is brilliant and strange, and every year something violent seems to happen to him. His psychologist is baffled, and his mother lives in constant panic. He has always managed to survive — to land on his feet, like a cat. But cats have only nine lives, and Louis has used up eight, one for every year.

On his ninth birthday, Louis goes on a picnic with his parents and falls off a cliff. The details are shrouded in mystery. Louis' mother is shell-shocked; his father has vanished. And after some confusion Louis himself, miraculously alive but deep in a coma, arrives at Dr. Pascal Dannachet's celebrated coma clinic.

Was the fall a mere accident? If anyone knows, they're not telling. Until one day, still deep within his coma, Louis meets the bandaged figure who calls himself Gustave, and begins to tell his tale.

Comment: The Ninth Life of Louis Drax is a macabre little book with a dark sense of humor, and is really quite brilliant.  It's been compared to The Lovely Bones (because both narrators are children and both are dead or close to it. However, to my mind they are very different types of book - reviews of The Lovely Bones are littered with soft upbeat adjectives such as 'luminous' and 'astonishing', while words such as 'surreal', 'sharp', 'suspenseful' and 'disarmingly comic' turn up when describing The Ninth Life.

Liz Jensen says, 'The inspiration for Louis Drax came from my own grandmother’s death in Switzerland in the 1930s. Her body was found at the bottom of a cliff, three days after her eldest son had vanished from the face of the earth. The mystery of how my grandmother died, and what happened to her lost son, was never solved. It cast a shadow across the whole family, and when I first heard it as a child, it haunted me (more).

This review is from the The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. It first ran in the January 18, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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