The Immortalists (Chloe Benjamin)

February 2, 2018

5/5 Stars
 

How would you live your life, if you knew when you were going to die?

For me, the premise of this book was too intriguing to ignore. I dived in, expecting something with supernatural leanings, perhaps rather fantastical. What I got instead was something far richer and more thought-provoking than I could have imagined. 

 

 


The Immortalists starts with four siblings, walking along a street in New York. Vayra, the eldest, is protective of her three younger brothers and sisters; Daniel, whose idea it was to visit the fortune telling gypsy in the first place, flighty Klara, and the youngest, Simon. 

The fortune teller agrees to see them, one at a time; and while in her apartment, they learn the date of their death. So far, so spooky, right? 

However, that's where the book ceases to be the eerie novel it might have been, and becomes something else entirely. It's divided into quarters; each focusing on a sibling, and what they did with their lives afterwards. Most importantly, it's an exploration into the choices they make, given the knowledge that they have. One is destined to die young, and thus lives life to the full; and rather recklessly to boot. Another denies her death altogether, until the knowledge overwhelms her and she ends her life. The third tries to track down the fortune teller and kill her, with terrible consequences, and the final sibling lives a closeted life, because they are so frightened of losing the ones they love. 

The storyline itself was impressive enough. The quality of writing - even more so. It was well-paced enough to hold my attention, yet engaging enough to make me take my time with it (a rare thing for someone who normally rattles through books at a ferocious rate). The characters are deep, rounded and thoroughly believable - and there are so many other elements that enrich the story further - such as the Jewish mother, the magician, Raj, and his daughter, and the cop whose life is somehow interwoven with theirs. 

It's also as much about family ties as it is about death; and brings about a lot of reflection while reading it. So yes, I think it's fair to say that I loved this book to bits - I'll be reading it again in the future, I'm sure!

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