Book Group: Jeremy Laurance reviews 'The Ninth Life of Louis Drax'

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The Independent Culture

The central conceit of this gripping thriller is that Louis Drax is capable of communicating from the depths of his comatose state. What can he reveal about the accident, if accident it was, that has left him mortally injured?

The central conceit of this gripping thriller is that Louis Drax is capable of communicating from the depths of his comatose state. What can he reveal about the accident, if accident it was, that has left him mortally injured?

Neurologically, the thesis that Louis is still a player in the drama is entirely convincing. Consciousness is not an either/or state. There are layers of awareness, and we have limited understanding of how far they extend.

Louis Drax's vivid internal life is brilliantly conveyed. But how to communicate that awareness?Here Liz Jensen's novel makes its one disappointing step by lapsing into the supernatural to suggest that Louis communicates telepathically through his neurologist, Dr Dannachet. Dr Dannachet need not blame himself for being slow to reach an understanding of the disturbed Natalie Drax, Louis' mother. But I was unconvinced by his role as the unwitting conduit for Louis' musings.

Dr Dannachet's somnambulist perorations would more likely have shone a light into his own psyche than Louis'. The messages from Louis might have been better understood as an amalgam of two people's longings - the patient's and his empathic - but not telepathic - doctor.

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