The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

*I received a free ARC of this novel via NetGalley.  The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

51MXjA0MaRL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Blurb:  It’s 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York’s Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they’re about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes.

Over the years that follow, the siblings must choose how to live with the prophecies the fortune-teller gave them that day. Will they accept, ignore, cheat or defy them? Golden-boy Simon escapes to San Francisco, searching for love; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician; eldest son Daniel tries to control fate as an army doctor after 9/11; and bookish Varya looks to science for the answers she craves.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists is a story about how we live, how we die, and what we do with the time we have.

The Immortalists is not quite the magical-realism novel I had expected, but instead provides an in-depth exploration of the lives and behaviours of four very different, but related, people who have all received the same information:  the date they will die.  Seeing how each sibling deals with the idea of their own mortality and a known expiration date makes for a fascinating study of human psychology and how we relate to the world around us.

I particularly enjoyed how the structure moved from one sibling to another through the course of their lives, but without much overlap, so we get an entirely different perspective of events unclouded by the previous POV.

I was somewhat surprised at how emotionally detached I felt from the characters.  I certainly enjoyed reading about them, but at no point did I really feel for them, or invest emotionally in their struggles.  This was mainly due to the detached and precise writing style, which drew a breathtakingly realistic picture of this family, but in quite stark black pen lines rather than a softer or brighter colour portrait of emotional intimacy.  I felt rather like Varya observing her monkeys with interest and pleasure but also a safe distance.

This is a great novel for those who enjoy considering moral and philosophical ideas in a fictional setting, and provides much material for thought and discussion, so I would particularly recommend it for book groups.

Most adults claim not to believe in magic, but Klara knows better. Why else would anyone play at permanence – fall in love, have children, buy a house – in the face of all evidence there’s no such thing? The trick is not to convert them. The trick is to get them to admit it.

– Chloe Benjamin, The Immortalists

You can find more from Chloe Benjamin here or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

You can buy The Immortalists on Amazon right now!

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