by Julie HaleFebruary, 2006
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax
Jensen, the British author of four previous novels, offers a sophisticated mystery in her latest book. Extremely odd, preternaturally bright and only nine years old, Louis Drax is an accident-prone French boy. Each year, some violent calamity befalls him, and the latest has landed him in a hospital in Provence, deep in a coma. How, precisely, did he get there? Natalie, Louis' mother, claims that her son was pushed off a cliff by his vicious father, Pierre, who has conveniently vanished. The police pursue Pierre, while Louis' doctor, Pascal Dannachet, begins his own investigation of the Drax case. Although her story doesn't quite hang together, the doctor becomes entranced by Natalie and soon falls in love with her. He recounts portions of the story, giving the reader insights into Louis' condition. But the novel really hits its stride during the comic, ironic narration provided by Louis, who calls himself the Disturbed Child and shares from the depths of his unconscious state, where he has befriended a mysterious figure named Gustave incidents from his brief, accident-filled life. A rare and remarkable character, Louis shines as the centerpiece of this one-of-a-kind thriller. Intricately constructed, unpredictable and original, Jensen's book has been optioned by Miramax, with Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, Cold Mountain) slated to serve as director. A reading group guide is available online at www.bloomsburyusa.com.