The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – Review

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Title: The Immortalists

Author: Chloe Benjamin

Genre: Fiction

Summary: from amazon

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.

Review:

First off, I listened to this as an audiobook. Unfortunately, I very much disliked the narrator, I found her incredibly over the top at times and just lacking in any subtlety at all. This can sometimes happen with an audiobook but it did make enjoying the book already a challenge before even considering the merits of the work itself. I would have definitely enjoyed The Immortalists more in print I think. However, putting aside the narrator, I did still have some problems with the book along with some praise for it.

I loved the initial idea of the novel, the concept of a fortune teller predicting death dates of four siblings sounded unusual and intriguing. I’m not sure that, for me, the book quite lived up to it’s concept. Saying that, I did very much like parts of it and I thought it was pretty well executed and engaging. The novel is split into four sections, one for each of the siblings and I found this an effective and enjoyable way of telling the story. I did, however, enjoy some parts more than others. I found Simon’s section was emotional, the AIDS crisis was so horrifying that it is impossible not to feel overwhelming empathy for the people affected by it in the way that Simon is. Despite this empathy, I did not love Simon’s character. I found him a little self-involved and childish at times and due to this I didn’t feel particularly attached to him. I liked Klara’s section a little more, in part due to the fact that as a reader I felt more connected to her. We already know Klara a little before reaching her section as she features quite prominently in Simon’s. I also found her involvement in the secretive world of magicians and illusionists fascinating. It felt like a peek into an unusual lifestyle and I found her voice interesting and affecting. I also liked Daniel’s part which was unexpected as we know very little about him from the first half of the book. I felt like I understood his motivations and reactions well and thought he was an interesting character to follow. The final part of the novel focussing on Varya was a little hit or miss for me. I wasn’t hugely fond of her character but I did find her battle with her mental health extremely important and dealt with in a sensitive and realistic way by the author. In addition her part did wrap up the story nicely and gave some closure to the reader.

The characters besides the siblings in all four sections were vivid and felt realistic even if they were not all particularly likeable. I also felt like the author did a good job moving smoothly through the timeline. Each part had a sense of authenticity to it, especially the earlier moments set in the 70s and 80s. There is a huge amount of time covered in the book and I think Benjamin dealt with this skilfully creating almost four connected novellas that linked on from one another other fluently.

In my opinion The Immortalists was well written and I would be more than happy to read the author’s future work as I did like her style. I did feel my interest wavering at certain points of the novel but the author always managed to draw me back into the story. There was a lot of insight in this book into sibling relationships, familial connections and the many forms and degrees of love. Overall I feel The Immortalists had a great concept and despite never really completely living up to it’s initial promise, there was still a lot to like about this book.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

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