**WARNING! This review contains spoilers! Proceed at your own risk!!** Well, well, The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. I’ve seen this book around throughout the years but never read it, obviously. When I heard the movie was in production, the synopsis made it even more interesting to me so I finally had to give it a go (the fact that Jamie Dornan will be a lead role is purely a bonus, I promise). I finished it last night but had to sleep on my thoughts before writing my final review this afternoon. Even now, I’m still unsure of my feelings towards this read. My mind won’t let me form proper sentiments, so bear with me.
Take The Shining, The Sixth Sense, Insidious, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, roll it into a big, old ball and voila! You now have Louis Drax.
A mysterious and disturbed nine year old boy seems to keep cheating death, and eventually winds up in a coma after a near fatal fall makes for a peculiar and dark plot. No one in his life is particularly likable, so just be cautious of everyone you come across. Even Louis himself is a rotten brat, and pretty cynical for a child. There’s a reason everyone refers to him as “Wacko Boy”. His mother, Natalie, craves attention from the very get-go and plays the irresistible damsel in distress that men can’t help but drool over. Pierre Drax is a doting father, but when you find out he left his first wife while they went through the process of adoption in order to be with Natalie, he loses cool points. Lastly, there’s Doctor Pascal (who will be portrayed by Dornan in the film adaptation) is slightly despicable as well. A married man with two grown daughters, It’s wonderful to see how he takes solace in helping his pediatric coma patients, but it’s far less wonderful when he’s immediately attracted to Madame Drax. The two have an affair almost from the moment of introduction, right in the very hospital where Louis is being treated.
Throughout this whole story, you get the perspective of both the doctor and of Louis while he’s unconscious. Pascal struggles with his emotions towards Natalie and with finding a breakthrough in the child’s condition. During Louis’s perspective, things become something not of this world. It’s a completely supernatural story. We meet Gustave, a man covered in bandages and is nothing more than skin-and-bones. He walks Louis through a forest area of the subconscious and gives him tasks to do that connect between the living and the dead. As you tread through, there’s an overall uncomfortable feeling when dealing with Louis and his inner most circle.
Some of this story can only be explained as unbelievable. I wasn’t buying it when Doctor Pascal was head-over-heels in love with Louis’s mother within the blink of an eye. In one chapter, he discusses his adoration for his wife, Sophie, and their daughters, then the next, he’s kissing Natalie Drax in a secluded corridor of a hospital. There’s also a scene towards the end when seemingly out of nowhere there’s this massive fire and the whole hospital has to be evacuated. There’s chaos, injury, and people die, but I was left wondering what I just read and how it tied into the main plot.
The reason I ultimately gave this book a good rating was because of the experiment Pascal performs to try to save his most peculiar patient. With the help of Louis’s psychiatrist and an investigator on the Drax case, they to try to find out Louis’s truth and lure him out of his coma. This is where the novel took on a Frankenstein feel, connecting the doctor to the patient. The psychiatrist posed questions to the unconscious child that would be answered through Doctor Pascal. It gave this work an interesting twist and made it the psychological thriller it deserves to be. The novel ends on an abstract note, so I guess you’ll just have to make up your own mind about the fate of the “poor boy”, Louis Drax. My Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars