Book Group: Victory for the boy in a coma

Christina Patterson collates the group's views on 'The Ninth Life of Louis Drax' by Liz Jensen
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The Independent Culture

If proportional representation were applied to the book group, then the boy in a coma would win. It's a one-party dictatorship, of course (picked by your tireless books editors) with no real opposition. But even one party can fail to get the vote. You're a stroppy lot. You don't like being told what to think and you're quick to rubbish the opinions of critics, Booker judges - and us.

If proportional representation were applied to the book group, then the boy in a coma would win. It's a one-party dictatorship, of course (picked by your tireless books editors) with no real opposition. But even one party can fail to get the vote. You're a stroppy lot. You don't like being told what to think and you're quick to rubbish the opinions of critics, Booker judges - and us.

This month, however, dissent was reduced to a mild grumble. In the wake of the election, turn-out was also quite low. Any minute now, a moustached maverick, forging an alliance between, say, evangelical Christians and the News of the World, will declare a rival book group. It will be called "Honour!" or perhaps "Power!" and there will be ugly scenes in the streets. Until then, I quite like the new, less feisty brand of book group members. Chastened, you might almost say. "A bloodied nose" might be pushing it, but it's clear that you've listened and learnt.

HaydenT cast the first vote. "I read this book over the weekend" he said "and thoroughly enjoyed it. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next". He liked the technique of having two narrators, which, he thought, "helped to maintain the suspense". His only "real criticism" was the way Jensen "presents dialogue, with no speech marks... It always gives me the impression" he said "that the author is thinking of the film rights". Well, the thing is, Hayden, it worked. It's not every day you get snapped up by Anthony Minghella. You don't get that kind of money by writing books.

The second vote was also, broadly, a "oui!" "I was dreading this one" said Mo245, who had read Liz Jensen's Arkbaby and hadn't liked it. This was "much better". "It was very easy to read and an ideal holiday book." As a "straight, entertaining novel", she said, "it was great". But she wasn't convinced by Dr Dannachet's pursuit of Natalie Drax. She "almost felt that Liz Jensen had... got bored ".

PhilDeans also "really enjoyed the book". It was, he said, "a good quick read". He liked the idea of having a choice to stay in your ninth life, or even your second or third. "Perhaps" he mused "we are all in a coma of sorts," and it's "our choice whether we come out of it or not". Slightly alarmed by the fact that he was "getting philosophical", he planned to "get back to the red wine".

Mo245 thought that the "notion of 'living a ninth life" said "more about the author than about any theory. I suspect" she added "many writers have a greater ability to live solely within their imagination." Shirley had "found it an enjoyable and intriguing mix of psychology, crime and fantasy", but she was also caught up with bigger issues. Just how much is an unconscious person aware of? Does the brain recall memories while it's trying to recover? Could dead people join the book group? Actually, she didn't ask that one, but it might be worth a try.

And then, suddenly, we got our first firm "non!". "For me", said 2wabbits, another book group stalwart, this book read like a cross between a Mills and Boon and a Buffy rip-off for teens. It was way too obvious what was going to happen." Ramblingsid, in a perverse refusal to live up to his name, pronounced it "an enjoyable suspense novel, but not that remarkable". OliviaDW was more voluble. She liked the two narrators and found the voice of Louis "totally convincing". But she thought what happened to Dr Dannachet was "not so terrible". "Okay" she said "he got badly burnt, and he fell in love and lost that woman". That's literally burnt, Olivia, as in screaming agony and third degree burns. I suppose it could be worse.

Meanwhile, the "oui!" campaign was continuing to gather force. Bergkamp "thoroughly enjoyed" the book. Glynhagget found it "never less than readable". Zappy01 thought it had a "fairy tale" quality and was "a fun book to read". LJ2026, who found it "intriguing and dark" even read it in Provence, where it's set. Great idea, LJ. Method Reading. We could make it a rule. Next month: in rehab.

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