I saw that the statue of Christ The Redeemer is being repaired because it was hit by lightning last week and it made me think of a book I read before Christmas, The Rapture by Liz Jensen.
Gabrielle Fox, a psychotherapist, returns to work following an accident which has left her wheelchair bound and finds that one of her charges will be Bethany Krall, infamous following the brutal murder of her mother whose previous psychotherapist left under something of a cloud when she began to believe that Bethany was responsible for a string of natural disasters. However, Gabrielle begins to suspect that there is more to Bethany than meets the eye as she successfully predicts the dates of a superstorm which hits Rio de Janerio and an earthquake which reduces Istanbul to rubble.
On the whole I really enjoyed this book as a thriller, which aims barbs at climate change deniers, megacorporations and religious fundamentalists in a manner reminiscent of Margaret Atwood. The characters of Bethany and Gabrielle were both in turns an engaging mix of vulnerability and aggression, lashing out at the world in the few ways left to them.
Something which troubled me about the book were the ways in which Gabrielle referred to herself as no longer being a woman, having lost her unborn child and feeling below the waist in a car accident (and there are a few heavy-handed Frida Kahlo allusions to reinforce this, lest you should forget…). I get that it’s an element of characterisation and doesn’t represent the author’s views and all that, but I found this a troubling way of expressing the characters loss of identity, as though genitals, reproductive ability or sensation in the nether regions are what code you as a woman… especially odd with the way the novel plays out, but this might just be me struggling with this.
It took me a little while to get into the language which for some reason felt very American, which isn’t a criticism of American English, just a surreal feeling when you’re trying to get into a book set in the UK. Ultimately though this transatlantic vibe worked quite well, and allowed the audience to find the spread of Evangelicalism and Evangelical celebrity across the pond all the more convincing.
If iceaggedon and the UK floods have put you in the mood for a novel which is a hybrid of psychological thriller and natural disaster prophecy, then this is a great book for you.