* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *
Beginning in 1969 New York, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is a family drama with an enticing premise: four siblings are told by a gypsy psychic the day they will die. The concept immediately conjures a host of questions. Do the siblings believe the prophecy? Do they ignore or accept the prediction? What are the predictions? Do they vary from child to child? Do any of the siblings confess their 'date'? Does knowing the date change the way they'll live their life? These are all questions I was keen to find answers for and with one of the best covers I've seen this year, I was eager to start reading The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin.
Following on from the prologue where the predictions take place the book is split into four parts, one for the life of each sibling. What develops is a good literary novel about a Jewish family in America covering the siblings' generation as well as that of their parents and subsequent children, but it didn't go where I wanted it to. My questions were eventually answered, but the information was slowly drip fed into the book in a measured writing style.
I think I'm partly to blame for not enjoying this novel as much as I should have. When I heard the premise I was instantly reminded of the premise of The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma and wanted to relive the startling impact the premise in that book had amongst the siblings. (That the eldest brother would die at the hands of one of his brothers). It was one of my favourite books in 2015 and I wanted to experience that reading magic again here.
In the end, The Immortalists deals with many interesting themes, including fate and destiny and our ability - or inability - to escape it or change it.
My rating = ***