The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

About six months ago I moved from the town I’d known all my life to a village with less than a thousand people.  No shop, no pub, no library – just a school and a church. The first thing I did was search for local book clubs, not only are they a great way to meet people but they introduce you to books that you may never have picked up and enjoyed.  I couldn’t find one. There were meet up groups in the area, but all were over 15 miles away which wasn’t what I really wanted.

Several weeks ago a post appeared on the local Facebook group from someone asking if there was a book club locally (why didn’t I think of that!) and would anyone be interested in starting one. I jumped at the chance, and last Thursday wandered down to the pub in the next village which is luckily only a mile away.   After some introductions and discussion we decided we probably should pick a book. The first suggestion was Elenor Oliphant is Completely fine, A book a few of us had read, and the second was The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin.  We chose the second and happily set the date in our diary for the next meet.  (we’ve since found out that the book is only currently available in hardback and eBook, the paperback is a few months from release – a rookie error that we won’t make again).download (1)

The Tagline for the book is “If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?”

Revolving around four brothers and sisters, the Golds, who as young children visit a woman who tells them the date they will die, we learn how this knowledge can impact how you live your life, if fate really is predetermined.

Each section of the book is told by one of the four siblings, that part of their life from their point of view. I like that we’re not jumping around between people, getting mixed opinions on one topic, living the story as that character did, with their knowledge only.

The four siblings are:

  • Simon, the brother who felt being gay in New York wouldn’t be appropriate, and runs away from home to become a dancer in the 1980s in San Francisco rather than run the Family’s tailoring business and look after his mother. His story was the most interesting for me.
  • Klara, who doesn’t want to go into the family business either, or school/university. After working in a magic shop, learning the craft from her boss deep down she magician who believes in her own tricks but knows the world has changed and Magic is no longer a popular art. The rare times that it is accepted, Magicians are male, not female.
  • Daniel, a military doctor who sees himself as the family’s protector, he’s proud of his job and refuses to believe that the date he is given has any meaning. He lacks any real substance as a person although redeems himself by trying to be a better uncle to his niece.
  • Varya, a scientist who is working on an experiment to try and find how we extend human life span. Is she motivated by the knowledge of the death dates, loss of her father at a young age or is it a natural curiosity and inquisitiveness. There’s a twist in her story where I feel that as the reader we were intentionally misled, which put me off both the book and the character.

We don’t learn the dates the Gold children are given by the woman until we get into Simons story.  You have to wonder how much the knowledge affected their actions, and the way they approached their lives, would the same decisions have been made if they thought they had more time or less?  

Im not sure how I would categorize this book, In places I found it hard to concentrate and keep reading. (Not wanting to be the book club dunce motivated me more than the book I think) The story flowed, it worked, and I can understand why its likely to be a popular book. I think its missing a real ending to the story to round it off fully.  I think some parts rely on the reader having an awareness of historical events making me feel on occasion that the book may have been aimed at an older age group or that id skipped a chapter or three, It just wasn’t for me.


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