Review// The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

30288282

Author: Chloe Benjamin
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: January 9, 2018
Book Length: 346 pages 
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Review:3.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

My Review:

What I loved most about this was the premise: the whole, ‘four siblings living in NYC in 1969 go and visit a psychic that tells them each the day of their death’ thing sounded pretty cool from the onset, and I just knew I had to read it. All of them are told their death day in private, therefore, each sibling does not know the dates given to the others. The rest of the book, told in four separate parts – one for each of them – centres around their lives and events leading up to and including their death days.

I thought that this book was going to have a little more magical realism than it did, however, you don’t really figure out if the fortune teller had any ‘real’ powers or not. If anything, it leans more toward it all just being coincidence and rather, it appears as though each Gold sibling – Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya – is the victim of self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t believe their deaths would have happened on those exact days had they not spent their lives obsessing over what the fortune teller predicted.

The two siblings whose stories I found most interesting were Simon and Klara. I loved how close they were, how their relationship evolved in their youth, and how the death of one affected the other. Unfortunately, those were parts one and two of the book; by the middle and end when I got to Daniel and Varya, I wasn’t as intrigued by what was happening. Since they are the older siblings and the first half centred around the other two, by the time I got to Daniel and Varya, it felt like I had missed some of their major character development. I didn’t get to read about them growing up – it kind of just skipped forward in time to their adulthood’s – so there was a bit of a disconnect for me with regards to how invested I felt in their story lines.

Nonetheless, this book was a thought provoking one. If given the opportunity, I would never want to know my predicted date of death. You’d think that it would have the power to make you live life to the fullest and soak up every moment you have, but as illustrated by these siblings, I think it would definitely freak me out too much! 🙅🏻‍♀️

Have you read this book? Do you want to read this book? If given the chance, would you want to know your predicted death day – why or why not?! Let me know, I’d love to know other people’s opinions!

-Catherine

Let’s connect! Goodreads | Twitter


Capture

Review// My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

35036409

Author: Elena Ferrante
Series: The Neapolitan Novels #1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: October 19, 2011
Book Length: 331 pages 
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense and generous hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her two protagonists.

My Review:

The phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover” plays its role heavily here. If it weren’t for me having watched an episode of the show based on this book first, I never would have even given it second glance because of how unappealing the cover is to me.

The book transported me to Italy – the little Neapolitan town where Elena and Lina grew up appeared in my mind as if I were recounting it from my own memory rather than from the descriptions of a character in a novel. As someone whose familial roots are in Italy, and who has seen firsthand what the culture there is like between people in small towns, this hit the nail on the head. The gossip, violence, comradery – it all was very accurately portrayed. If there is one thing I didn’t like though, it’s that there were so many families, and so many characters in each family, that even by the end, I had trouble figuring out who was who, and to what family they belonged! Nonetheless, it did a great job of capturing what a small town in Italy is like for the reader – at least from what I can say of my own observations.

I really enjoyed reading about the childhood and adolescence of these two girls, and how their relationship blossomed and changed throughout the years. Although both very smart, I liked the contrast in character between the two – Elena being polite, meek, and a studious “good girl”, while Lina was the rebellious, headstrong, and mischievous one. Going into it, I had the impression that the ‘brilliant friend’ was referring to Lina, as Elena is the narrator of the story, so it surprised me when Lina referred to Elena as her ‘brilliant friend’ at one point in the novel. I guess, in a sense, each one is the other’s brilliant friend, but for different reasons. Both of these girls hold the friendship and opinion of the other in high regard, and although neither outright admit to it, it is clear that there is a power struggle within their relationship. At times, this greatly annoyed me, and it felt like their relationship was based solely on these little silent competitions: who moved on to middle school; who got their period first; who was prettier; who got a boyfriend first; who got married first. Admittedly though, this narrative is also what kept things interesting.

This book definitely ended on a cliff-hanger, and in a very odd spot too! I am very much looking forward to reading the next book in the series to find out where their story takes them.

-Catherine

Let’s connect! Goodreads | Twitter


Capture