CW: death, graphic sex scenes, suicide, animal cruelty
I was so looking forward to this book. The premise, as strange and gloomy as it may sound, really captivated me and I was ready to dive into it immediately. I quite enjoy family-centric books that focus on the bonds that are built, strained and possibly destroyed over time, which made the whole aspect of the story spanning over several decades even more endearing. After actually reading the book though, I was rather torn. I debated whether I could actually find the words to write this review, but here we are and I am trying.
“She’d tell herself that what she really wanted was not to live forever, but to stop worrying.”
I both liked and very much disliked this book. Don’t get me wrong, there were many powerful and enchanting moments in the Immortalists but something about the execution irked me. I was prepared for sadness and difficult scenes, after all, this book is about death. However, the read stayed kind of illusive to me until the end and therefore made some of the more hard-hitting moments difficult to grasp. I was confused by several passages, never quite sure if it could be classified as magical realism or if this was supposed to just be reality. I understand that there isn’t always a need to explain everything, but if you are indicating there was e.g. a mental illness at play and you make it look like magic instead, I will definitely be confused. Also, even though the topic of the book is supposedly about fate vs. self-fulfilling prophecies, I don’t actually know where it stands on that subject by the end of it. Maybe it’s good to question that. Maybe it was designed that way to make the reader think, but I would have liked to explore the intricacies of that concept a little more.
“Character is fate—that’s what he said. They’re bound up, those two, like brothers and sisters. You wanna know the future?” She points at Varya with her free hand. “Look in the mirror.”
Overall, the Immortalists reads a lot like historical fiction. Since we start in the late 60s and go all the way to the mid 2000s, they cover a lot of ground and events during that time. That was also the reason why I let them get away with language I would not have liked to read in a book set in contemporary times.
“She knows that stories have the power to change things: the past and the future, even the present.”
Lastly, I don’t need my characters to be likable. We aren’t all likable humans, but these four siblings really didn’t make it easy to root for them sometimes. And the way some of their bodily changes were described just felt unnecessary to me. Do you really have to introduce a 13 year-old in the second sentence of a book by mentioning her pubic hair? I am not trying to say there’s anything wrong about pubic hair, but what was the point of that description?
This may be an odd way to end the review, but this was also an odd read for me. From what I understand, a lot of people really enjoyed this book and therefore it could just be a me-problem here. I cannot put into words what it was lacking for me, but there definitely was something missing that could have elevated The Immortalists by a couple stars.
Fazit: 3/5 stars! While it had some great moments, it ultimately wasn’t the kind of book I wanted it to be.
Have you read The Immortalists? Is it a story you can see yourself enjoying? Let’s talk about it!