Friday, May 31, 2013

'The Ninth Life of Louis Drax' by Liz Jensen

31 May 2013

There's a rich dramatic sub-genre based within the mind of someone suffering from a coma. The dreamlike possibilities have inspired surreal worlds between the living and the dead, for example in 'A Matter of Life and Death' or 'Life on Mars'. One of the best of these coma-dramas is 'Vent' – a dark radio comedy by Nigel Smith which ran for three series on BBC Radio 4 between 2006 and 2009. 'Vent' is a wonderfully inventive, poignant, funny and moving drama with an excellent cast, including Neil Pearson, Fiona Allen, Josie Lawrence and Leslie Ash. The use of sound-effects, music, flashbacks and dream sequences create an experience that could only have been achieved on radio. And the fact that Nigel Smith was writing from his own experience of being in a coma makes the whole thing even more fascinating. 'Vent' is currently being repeated on BBC Radio 4Extra. I was reminded of 'Vent' while reading Liz Jensen's novel 'The Ninth Life of Louis Drax' – an enjoyable macabre psychological thriller. As well as exploring the possibilities of a character in a coma, Liz Jensen uses sections of first person narration in the naïve voice of a young boy which made me think of Mark Haddon's 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' but she combines this with a chilling plot that explores the relationship between a mother and her son that also reminded me of 'We need to talk about Kevin' by Lionel Shriver (reviewed here in August 2006). 'The Ninth Life of Louis Drax' is a clever, gripping and sinister thriller.

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