Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

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The Immortalists

Chloe Benjamin

Tinder Press, 2018

Fiction

 

If you knew the day you were going to die, how would you chose to live?

1969, New York. On an unbearably hot summer’s day the four Gold children seek their destinies. The strange fortune-teller they have heard so many rumours about them predicts the date each child will die on, knowledge that will completely change them and their lives. Simon escapes the bonds of the family business, running to San Francisco to live and love freely. Klara pursues her passion for magic, becoming a performer in glitzy Las Vegas. Daniel decides the fates of others through his work as an army doctor. Varya turns to science and logic to try and gain control. They must all live with their prophecy, whether they decide to defy it or believe it.

I was intrigued by this book’s tagline (quoted above), and the story definitely didn’t disappoint. The span the book covers is impressive, and I felt Benjamin really captured the different periods and places her characters inhabit. Each sibling was a complex character with an interesting story, although Klara’s story was the one I enjoyed the most. I liked the magic (bordering on magical realism) in her tale, her hope and her dreams, and the way it explores sexism. Varya was the character I related to the most. The book invites readers to question how people change (or if they can. As the fortune teller tells Varya ‘most people don’t’) and what role we play in our own fate.

The Immortalists also explores family dynamics well – how they all react to the loss of their father, how close Simon and Klara are but how Simon becomes estranged from his other siblings, how growing up can change relationships. It is an emotional read that shows how these connections can be supportive or fraught, and how we can lack understanding even of those closest to us.

This is a gripping novel about life, death, love and what it means to be alive.

Recent Reads

It’s been a while since I did a reading round up – here are four of the books I have been enjoying recently!

The Power – Naomi Alderman

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This year’s winner of the Baileys prize for women’s fiction, The Power is a feminist sci-fi novel which has been described as ‘a classic of the future.’ Set in a version of the future in which women have electric power, and can take down the patriarchy, the book engages with gender, politics and religion. It switches between narrators and is a pacy, gripping thriller. The frame narrative was a bit clunky (although I could see the tongue-in-cheek tone in it) and the end was confusing, but overall this was an exciting read and one I would definitely recommend to fans of Margaret Atwood.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple

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This book has been on my TBR list for ages, and I am so glad I finally read it. It is a sharp, witty satire with memorable characters that had me laughing out loud at times, and very moved at others. This is an entertaining read with plenty of substance, Bernadette is a fantastic character, not one I will forget! I am looking forward to checking out Semple’s second book, Today Will Be Different.

One of Us is Lying – Karen M McManus

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‘The Breakfast Club with murder’ – a page-turning mystery with plenty of twists and turns. Five teens go into detention, four come out…I really enjoyed this YA debut. The four narrators have distinct voices and are well-rounded characters with very believable struggles and motives. While I did work out who the murderer was about half way through the book, there were still lots of surprises to keep me on my toes!

Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout

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Having loved My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible I decided it was high time I read Strout’s best-known novel, the Pulitzer-prize winning Olive Kitteridge. Strout creates compelling and thoughtful portraits of the various characters in this Maine community, covering a wide range of human experiences. My favourite chapter/story was ‘The Piano Player.’ A stunning novel, one I was thoroughly impressed and engaged by. I have heard very good things about the TV series, and will definitely be checking it out.

Currently reading:

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson And Her Family's Feuds

Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Cover image from Goodreads

Cover image from Goodreads

My Heart and Other Black Holes

Jasmine Warga

Hodder, 2015

Aysel and Roman met in an unlikely way – they are suicide partners. They connected through a website called Smooth Passages; their aim is to ensure each other goes through with the jump. Aysel is living in the shadow of her father’s horrific crime, afraid the same darkness lives within her. Deeply depressed, she can’t bear to go on. Roman is wracked with guilt about his little sister’s death, and sees suicide as the only solution. Neither wants a flake as their partner, but as they get to know each other better Aysel becomes less determined to go through with the plan…

Jasmine Warga’s debut novel is an emotional and powerful read. Aysel and Roman are strong characters – both flawed and in many ways broken, but also both very likeable. Aysel is passionate about physics. Roman is a talented artist. The connection between them is brilliant, as Roman says, they have chemistry. The minor characters in the book are also memorable, and the family dynamics are believable. There are some very emotional scenes as the characters (and the readers) realise what they will be leaving behind.

The novel is told from Aysel’s point of view, and her descriptions of her sadness are absolutely heart wrenching: ‘Sometimes I wonder if my heart is like a black hole – it’s so dense that there’s no room for light, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still suck me in.’ She describes her depression as a black slug in her stomach, weighing her down and eating up all her feelings. This is an important read. It gives an insight into depression, and emphasises that ‘there is nothing beautiful or glamorous or endearing about sadness.’

This is a striking debut, which I would highly recommend. It is one of the most moving books I have read, definitely a new favourite. I am looking forward to reading Jasmine Warga’s next book.

Originally reviewed for LoveReading.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’ve Read This Year So Far

I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked for reading this year, with essays and exams, but I have read some really excellent books and plan to do lots and lots of summer reading!

1. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell.

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How I loved this book! I really connected with Cath, and I felt this book explored the difficulties of starting college very truthfully. I also loved how it explored the wonderful world of fanfiction. Read my review of Fangirl here.

2. We Were Liars – E.Lockhart

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This is an excellent read, beautifully written and with a very unexpected twist at the end. I loved it so much that once I finished I went right back to the start and read it all over again. Review coming very soon!

3. Attachments – Rainbow Rowell

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This book made me laugh a lot, but it was also very moving. A warm hearted tale of friendship – I can’t wait for Landline, Rainbow Rowell’s next book.

4.  Belinda – Maria Edgeworth

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I read this book for one of my college courses, The Marriage Plot, and I absolutely loved it. This is one Jane Austen fans will enjoy, and has a fantastic character in Lady Delacour who has wonderful lines such as ‘Having told you my fortune, need I add, that I, or it, had lovers in abundance – of all sorts and degrees – not to reckon those, it may be presumed, who died of concealed passions for me.’

5, Apple and Rain – Sarah Crossan

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This was one of the books I was really looking forward to reading this year, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It is a very touching book, and I loved how Crossan worked the poems into the novel. Review coming very soon!

6. How They Met And Other Stories – David Levithan

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I’m cheating a bit here as I have only just started this one, but I know it will be a favourite! It is a series of short stories about love, and is as wonderfully written as Levithan’s other work. Can’t wait to read more.

7. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – Catherynne M. Valente

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This is a wonderful fairytale adventure, with wry narration and a magical world. The illustrations are beautiful, and doesn’t it have a fantastic title? Read my review here.

8. Just Listen – Sarah Dessen

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This is only the second Sarah Dessen book I have read, but I will certainly be reading more in future! This is one music lovers will enjoy, it also has an unusual romance, and deals brilliantly with sensitive issues. A very memorable read.

9. The Swan Thieves – Elizabeth Kostova

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While I didn’t love this book as much as Kostova’s previous book The Historian, it was a very engaging read, and had plenty of art! The characters are very memorable, and I loved how the 19th century sub plot was weaved into the main story.

10. After Iris – Natasha Farrant

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This was a very emotional tale, but also very quirky. I loved the Gadsby family, and can’t wait to read more of their adventures! Read my review here.

Post a link to your Top Ten Tuesday below and I’ll check it out, it would be great to get some book recommendations!