Who Wants To Live Forever?: Reviewing The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Hi everyone! I know it has been way too long since I’ve posted last. I’m trying not to neglect this blog but life happens sometimes and, unfortunately, that prevents me from reading. Anyways, I wanted to talk about a novel that I went in knowing nothing about and only picked up because I heard good reviews. Sometimes, you never know what you’re going to find. I will now tell you about Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists. 

In the summer of 1969, Daniel Gold heard rumors of a woman in his apartment building who could predict the future. Eager to know his fate, he convinces his three siblings to come with him and they each learned what day they would die on. Over the next fifty years, the Gold siblings must deal with this information. The youngest, Simon, runs away to San Francisco with no direction. Klara studies to become a magician, dreaming that she may defy death. Daniel struggles to maintain his career as an Army doctor. The oldest, Varya, studies longevity. As the lives of the Gold siblings unfold, each must learn what it means to live forever and what to do when you know on what day your life will end.

Like I said, I picked up this book with no real expectations and I have to say that I was impressed by what I read. Benjamin’s writing has a surreal and almost magical feeling while the plot itself is very much steeped in reality. The characters are very well fleshed out and dynamic in their own ways. The story does span a large amount of time but Benjamin dedicates plenty of time and detail to each story without making it feel as though it’s dragging on. The novel is part love story, part family drama, part mystery, and part tragedy. Benjamin does an excellent job testing the idea of fate versus free will without getting overly philosophical. There’s still plenty of philosophy but it is woven into the story lines. The Immortalists certainly surprised me in all of the best ways and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.

All My Soul Within Me Burning: Reviewing The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl

Hi everyone! I am so glad to be bringing you another book review so soon. I practically raced to finish this book today. As you might know, I am a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe and I have been absolutely fascinated with his odd life as well as death. I saw the title of this book and could not resist. I promise not to be biased in this review but it does combine a lot of my favorite elements. I will now tell you my thoughts on The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl.

Quentin Hobson Clark, a young lawyer living in Baltimore, is devastated by the death of his favorite author, Edgar Allan Poe. Clark decides to take it upon himself to clear Poe’s name and solve the mystery behind the bizarre death. Quentin soon realizes that there is much more to Poe’s death than he imagined as it leads him to international police agents, assassinations, and the horror of the Baltimore slave trade. Clark finds soon that he must solve the mystery of Poe’s death or else he may befall the same fate.

At first, when I was reading this novel, I was afraid that it may simply lead back to the factual evidence of Poe’s death, which is still unsolved to this day. Instead, I found myself enthralled with the twists and turns that the plot took me on. The pacing is slow to begin with but I soon began to realize it was the beginning of a roller coaster. The novel avoids getting too convoluted but still provides enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. I was surprised by how intense this novel got but I absolutely love that. This novel is most definitely in the vein of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories with its gothic elements and atmospheric writing. I am so glad I stumble upon this novel. You don’t need to be a Poe fan but, if you are a Poe fan like me, then I highly recommend Matthew Pearl’s The Poe Shadow as your next mystery/thriller novel.

The Words Find a Way: Reviewing The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

When I was in eighth grade, I went on a class trip to Washington DC. One of the locations we visited was the Holocaust Museum. For those who have not been there, it is a touching and gut-wrenching experience. It was fairly quiet in there, save for television screens showing bits of documentaries. You couldn’t help but walk slowly, wanting to absorb every ounce of information there was to offer. From the room of portraits that was three stories high to the pile of shoes in the floor, I had a hard time wrapping my head around what happened between 1938 and 1945. For a new kind of story about such a devastating historical event, I will now tell you about The Book Thief. 

It all starts with the death of Liesel Meminger’s younger brother. After he is buried, she finds a book titled The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Despite the fact she cannot read, Liesel becomes fascinated with books and begins to steal from the Nazi book-burnings. Soon, Liesel is sent to a foster home where her foster father helps to teach her to read, her foster mother rules with an iron fist, and a Jewish boxer named Max hides in the basement. She befriends a boy named Rudy who dreams of being as fast as Jesse Owens. Told through the eyes of Death, who is fascinated with Liesel, her life changes forever during the Second World War.

The first thing I love about this novel is the fact it is told through the perspective of Death. The entity is honest, a touch humorous, and profound. Liesel is a great female lead, exhibiting bravery that one might not expect from such a young girl. The characters  all exhibit such strong personalities that shine against the dark backdrop. In a way, they are all outcasts who bond with each other throughout the outbreak of Nazism. Though this novel is certainly heart-breaking and dark, it also offers a message of hope and love that will bring any reader to tears. Zusak artfully crafts a unique historical fiction that deserves more attention.

Note: There is a movie adaptation, if you are interested. I personally have not seen it.