Book Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

It’s 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York’s Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they’re about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes.

Such prophecies could be dismissed as trickery and nonsense, yet the Golds bury theirs deep. Over the years that follow they attempt to ignore, embrace, cheat and defy the ‘knowledge’ given to them that day – but it will shape the course of their lives forever.

What I Thought:
Wowsers! I am often struck by how good Tinder Press is at picking its titles – at least all the titles of theirs that I have picked up have been absolute crackers!

The Immortalists is no exception, coming from a premise that I think occupies many of us more than we would like to admit – if we knew when we were going to die, how would we live?

The Gold siblings are so very different, despite their hand-in-hand upbringing so, obviously, their responses to finding out their dates of death are very different, with some racing headlong towards their dates and filling their lives with colour, while the others try to minimise themselves until you wonder what is the point of living if you are not going to live?

Out of all the sections, the one about Simon was the one that I took to the most. Although you can see what is going to happen to him from a mile away, just by looking at when the book is set and doing some basic maths, getting to the inevitable is a riotous, colourful and emotional experience. Klara’s chapter too is beautifully written, making what happens to them both equally tragic.

Above all, The Immortalists asks the question of what we would do if we knew when we were going to die, but it does not offer easy answers. It shows us four possible responses to the situation and shows us too that even if you know when your time is up, what happens until then still has the power to surprise. It was a book I was still thinking of long after finishing it and it’s one of those books that has the power to provoke further debate in the longer term.

The Immortalists is published by Tinder Press and, as an aside, something else that they do well is cover art and this book is as beautiful to look at as it is to read…

To find out more about Chloe Benjamin, you can check out her website, or you can connect with her on Twitter.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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