Reader Review: The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists:  ★★★★

This book is one that had been on my ‘to be read’ list for quite some time so, upon finally seeing the novel in my local book warehouse, I was excited to get my hands on a copy and get ready it as soon as possible. From just the blurb of the book, it’s evident that the narrative is focused around an interesting, complex, and yet original premise that catches the attention of the person reading it and makes them want to explore it to a further extent. With a story that stands out so much, it’s no surprise that the book has gotten a lot of positive attention – and I’m here to only add to that further.

In 1969, in an apartment building in the Lower East Side of New York City, four siblings find themselves knocking on the door of a psychic woman who supposedly holds the power of being able to know the day when a person will die. With this new information at hand, each one of the siblings finds themselves dealing with their own prophecy in a variety of different ways. They have to make the decision of how to cope with the assumed date of their death – will they allow it to affect how they live their life and the choices that they make? Or will they suppress their worries and continue on with their lives without giving it much thought. As each one of the sibling’s stories unfolds, it becomes more evident how their fortunes influence their lives in one way or another, posing deep live questions and thoughts that work to take the reader off guard.

From the very premise of the story, there’s a very obvious air of mystery around the concept of the narrative and the overall plot which intrigues the reader. The idea of the storyline is original and it’s refreshing – it takes on a topic that a lot of people try to avoid in their own lives and poses a question that a lot of readers are going to be uncomfortable when considering in reflection to their own personal situations – though that’s one of the reasons as to why the book is so appealing from the start. It’s quite evident that the reason the book has racked up so much attention is due to the fact that the premise is authentic and the book is structured in a way that makes the audience involved. Because it’s a story that’s revolved around questions that the audience isn’t all that familiar with, it feels new and refreshing. Leading on from this, I really enjoyed the structure of the book as it’s split into four separate storylines – all focused on each individual one of the siblings and how their lives unravel. I think this gives good character insight and allows the characters to develop in a more in-depth respect – the audience feels closer to their lives and the reader is able to connect with the personalities of the various siblings and the situations that they end up facing. The stories and emotions of the characters feel a lot more personal because it’s told from their own conflicting perspectives. 

From the first page of the book, there’s an evidently specific tone that’s been set. The narrative follows a certain style – it captures and holds the attention of the audience from the get-go, and this is only heightened by the imagery that’s created by the descriptions that are introduced from the beginning. The tone is direct and there’s obvious talent in the way that the story has been set out which does well to reflect the originality of the premise. In turn, this makes the book very easy to read and get lost in from the start as the first chapter doesn’t lag. It’s paced in a way that gets the reader involved and holds their attention whilst providing them with more information about what’s actually occurring throughout the storyline as the characters, the situation, and the plot of the book is first introduced. It flows easily and is completely captivating, which is also increased when the main structure of the novel is introduced as it begins to focus on the individual characters and their own stories. Because it holds such a specific nature, there’s evident talent from the writer that can be noted and picked out. It’s written in a memorising way that feels new and makes the reader think. The stories feel wholesome and developed, so it’s very easy for the audience to get lost in completely. It doesn’t feel like it’s a repetition of another story, and this evident talent is maintained throughout the rest of the duration of the book. The story is vivid, detailed, moving, and powerful – it approaches the question of life in a way that a lot of us try to avoid, but does so from a perspective that, even if the audience is uncomfortable, they’re still willing to give thought to it. 

Along with enjoying the structure of the book and how closely it allows the audience to be involved in the narratives, I enjoyed the fact that the characters are well-developed and quite evidently have conflicting characteristics which makes them feel all the more compelling and, in turn, also makes their stories more moving for the audience. Each of the four siblings have their own ‘tropes’ that they fit into – they have their own interests and live their lives in their own personal ways, which means that they feel like they’ve been constructed effectively and have been considered to a large extent. Because they’re so well-developed and a lot of attention has obviously gone into making the cast a group of diverse dynamics, they don’t feel like they’re following cliches – they feel three dimensional and realistic. This links into the structure of the book as well because the audience is able to see how the various lives and experiences of the characters are contradicting and lets them get a closer idea of how they’ve dealt with the information regarding their ‘death date’ personally. They all deal with the fragility of their lives in various ways, which, also, does well to reflect who they are as people and how they’ve been influenced. The audience wants to explore the personalities, lives, and the problems that the characters face because it feels as if there’s more information to be explored and uncovered so they don’t feel like ‘copy and pasted’ characters in the slightest. This shows how well the characters have been developed and how they’ve been specifically constructed – there’s a lot of thought that’s gone into their traits and experiences, which is very nice to see. 

The characters also have very specific plot lines that link into their own characteristics and how they approach the issue of knowing the day that they will supposedly die. This allows the reader to experience a variety of different stories which do all hold the attention of the reader effectively, though it’s evident that some stories seem more immerse than others. I say this due to the fact that I felt the narratives of Simon and Klara were more engrossing, though that may just be a reflection of personal interest more so than a reflection of the development of the book itself. Especially within Klara’s own storyline, I really enjoyed the empowering messages that were showcased at certain points and within certain scenarios. A quote that really stuck with me was; “Klara won’t be a woman who is sawed in half or tied in chains – nor will she be rescued or liberated. She’ll save herself. She’ll be the saw.” She’s obviously a  very strong character and she holds specific beliefs. Various readers are going to find themselves relating to the different siblings more so than other, and this is completely expected as we all have our own outlooks and have our own experiences in regards to certain situations and emotions. All in all, the stories did indeed hold detail and were continuously interesting throughout. Because the stories are all different and hold different elements, they do well to inflict each other and create a good dynamic. The book is also very much focused on the idea of family and the relationships between siblings, so it’s good at showing the dynamic within that as well.  

When the book comes to an end, I think that there is a good amount of closure for the storyline. The ending is nice, it draws the parallel storylines together as well as doing a good job of rounding off the premise but keeping it open at the same time. What I mean by this is that considering the premise poses many questions for the audience, it leaves them wondering about the narrative and the concept a long time after finishing the book itself. The plot doesn’t keep the audience hanging – each of the storylines have closure and come to an end in one way or another – but it leaves them thinking more in-depth about the questions posed and makes them wonder how they would deal if they had that type of information at hand. This is effectively done because it’s obviously what the book set out to do. It poses such a direct question regarding the fragility of life in such a direct and personal way that it does well to take the audience off guard. It makes the reader actually think about how frail life is and how much it matters that we make the most of the time we have. It makes us directly consider how we would respond if we knew when we were going to die and makes us look into how we would personally be affected if we were able to have that type of information. Therefore, as well as being immersive, the book is one that opens the audience’s mind to further consideration even after they’ve completed it. 

Some elements of the book are indeed predictable, however, and I think that’s an element that stands out in some points of the narratives quite obviously. You can easily see the continuation in some of the scenarios and storylines, though this isn’t always a bad thing, but it does take away the ‘shock’ factor of potential plot twists. Generally, this isn’t something that I found to be a problem with the book as I still found it completely captivating and interesting, though it is something that’s to be taken into account when recapping the book in its entirety.  

To put it simply; this book does an excellent job of making the audience address questions that they may try to avoid in their everyday lives. It makes us think about life from a different perspective and puts a new take on how fragile it can be sometimes. It reminds us that we need to make the most of the time we have, even if it does so in a slightly uncomfortable manner. The book is descriptive, continuously immerse, and makes very good use of well-developed characters and narratives to pull the reader in and maintain their interest. Some of the storyline elements do prove to be predictable – you can see where the situations are going and know what to expect, but this definitely isn’t something that should deter any potential readers because I truly believe the book is one that’s to be experienced by all. 

Thanks for reading this short review and I’ll write you later. 

If you enjoy books that pose challenging questions, make you reflect on your own life and need an occasional reminder to slow down and appreciate the small things, then I would recommend you give ‘The Immortalists’ a shout. 

If you want to explore a variety of conflicting yet dynamic storylines that focus on well-developed characters with three-dimensional stories of their own to explore, then this is a book for you. 

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