The 9th Life of Louis Drax: Book Review

Hello everyone!  It’s Sunday again, which means most of us will be getting ready for another working week, which I won’t lie to you, generally sucks.  Why can’t us bookworms be allowed to read, create and eat snacks all day?  Is that too much to ask?  Anyway, to cheer you all up, I have a book review for you, as well as the announcement of the next book club pick.  Happy Reading…

louis drax

So let’s remind ourselves of the story:

Nine-year-old Louis Drax is a problem child: bright, precocious, deceitful- and dangerously, disturbingly, disaster prone.  When he falls off a cliff into a ravine, the accident seems almost predestined.  Louis miraculously survives- but the family has been shattered.  Louis’ father has vanished, his mother is paralysed by shock, and Louis lies in a deep coma from which he may never emerge.  In a clinic in Provence, Dr Pascal Dannachet tries to coax Louis back to consciousness.  But the boy defies medical logic, startling Dannachet out of his safe preconceptions, and drawing him inexorably into the dark heart of Louis’ buried world.  Only Louis holds the key to the mystery surrounding his fall- and he can’t communicate.  Or can he?

This is an incredibly original read, and genuinely like nothing I have ever read before.  The chapters alternate between Dr Pascal’s perspective and Louis’, creating a constant shift in the focus of the novel.  The author has an amazing way of capturing a character’s voice.  When you read Louis’ chapters, you can hear a child speak and you really get his personality.  Same with Dr Pascal’s chapters, when it’s obvious we have shifted to the thoughts of an adult, a confused and lonely adult, dedicated to his job, to an unhealthy level perhaps.  The chapters which take place inside Louis’ mind are imaginative and fantastical without being cliched or overdone, and the fictional character that dwells there, Gustav, the man with no face, is beautifully creepy and reassuring at the same time.  By creating a sound board for Louis, we have his story told to us in his words, at his pace, revealing the events which lead to his coma in a dramatic and interesting way.

All positive so far, however, whilst the voices and characters are clearly defined and easily imagined, they are also slightly unlikeable.  Louis is precocious and intelligent and a little odd, normally things I would love in a child, but honestly he just comes across as bratty.  Dr Pascal, the protagonist of this piece, is frankly pathetic.  He is clearly so dedicated to his job, and through it does wonderful things, but he appears so willing to risk all of that over a pretty face.  Same with his marriage…ok, it’s not perfect, and due to choosing his job more often over his wife, they appear to live almost separate lives, but after so many years, two children, a home together and a woman he still clearly loves and respects, he appears quite happy to chuck it all in for a younger, prettier model.  Add to that the fact that, despite him supposedly being this genius medical practitioner, he is so easily duped by this woman.  Apparently, if you pout your lips at him, he’ll believe anything.  The movie adaptation addresses this by making the consequences of his decisions less physical, and more specific to his job and marriage, the very things he put at risk.

The pace of the novel seems off as well.  Dr Pascal seems to fall almost instantly in love with Mrs Drax, with no real development to their relationship, or natural pace for attraction.  I understand that there is lightening bolt, love at first sight in this world, but this doesn’t appear to be that either.  Frankly, it’s as if Dr Pascal simply resigns to his fate with regards Mrs Drax.  It’s the same with the pace at which the telepathic connection between Dr Pascall and Louis is revealed.  It seems like Dr Pascall jumps to this incredibly far fetched conclusion a little too quickly, ‘I sleep walked a couple of times, as I did many times in my past, and I wrote some weird stuff down.  It must be the boy in a coma taking over my body through a psychic link.’  Similarly, Dr Pascall, Louis’ therapist, seems perfectly contented to jump straight to this (frankly insane sounding) conclusion.  Are these men genuinely medical professionals?  Again, this is addressed in the movie version, where Dr Pascall represents the cynical voice of reason.

Perhaps, I’m too cynical, but whilst I am perfectly willing to suspend reality when entering the universe created by a book, and accept all of the alternative realities and terms of that universe, I think it needs to make sense within the confines of the universe created.  Yes, there is a psychic link between the comatose boy and his Doctor, I accept that, but from my perspective, there should have been more instances and examples of this connection, or a more gradual realisation for the characters of it’s existence.  An opinion clearly shared by the writers who adapted the book for screen.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel.  It wasn’t the best thing I have ever read, but it was unique and entertaining.  It’s not particularly long or taxing, so I definitely think it’s worth a go! I would give it three stars.

The next book club book is ‘The Twelve’ by Stuart Neville, a fellow Norther Irish writer.  The blurb reads:

Gerry Fegan, a former paramilitary contract killer, is haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he has slaughtered. Every night, on the point of losing his mind, he drowns their screams in drink. His solution is to kill those who engineered their deaths.

From the greedy politicians to the corrupt security forces, the street thugs to the complacent bystanders who let it happen, all are called to account. But when Fegan’s vendetta threatens to derail a hard-won truce and destabilise the government, old comrades and enemies alike want him dead.

This sounds like a genuinely gritty, dark and original read and I can’t wait to read it.  Why don’t you join my book club and read along with me?


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