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on 24 August 2010
What an odd book! It seems unfair to describe it as bad... but then I wouldn't really call it good either, despite all the quotes on the backcover extolling its virtues. Someone lent it to me while on holiday and seeing they raved about it, and I was in their villa, I felt obliged to read to the end. Which was an easy enough task round the pool, the prose flies by... it's just that it failed to engage or excite me on any level.

The problems begin with the two main characters - Gabrielle and Bethany. I found neither of them likeable. Bethany is just plain crazy and woefully underdeveloped; Gabrielle bitter and obsessed with sex. Next the plot was a bit thin, in fact it sometimes felt as if I was reading a book that had some scenes missing. Nothing was quite developed enough. In places it was just embarrassing - the whole Gabrielle/Frazer misunderstanding (and its reliance on people not communicating) could have come directly from a soap opera - and you expect more from a novelist who's been shortlisted for the Orange Prize three times.

The writing was also odd. In places it tried too hard, seemed to stretch language to its limit - a 'sky gags on its own density' for example or the flash of a camera is 'like a fossil star'; in others it was cliché ridden eg 'someone paces like a panther'.

In summary, if you find yourself on holiday with a couple of days to spare it might be worth picking up but if you've got something more pressing to read I suggest you start on that. Spectacularly average, bordering on the pointless.
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on 10 November 2015
This book has some merits and starts out reasonably well with a rather chippy therapist (with a complicated past) in a wheelchair and a psychotic teen/murderer/psychic patient in the mix. Then Jensen throws in some global warming, a bit of fundamental religion, a paraplegic love story and a group of baffled/worried scientists. Some interesting threads, to be sure. But it really gets all too silly towards the second half and ends with an almost cartoonish climax. I closed the book feeling rather fed up. And, as others have commented, WHY does the heroine, Gabrielle, consistently refer to her lover by BOTH his names: Frazer Melville? What in the world is that about? Once it is noticed, it becomes very annoying. In some passages this quirk becomes so cumbersome that it is impossible to overlook. Are there no editors any more?
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The Rapture by Liz Jensen is a sharply-written thriller which starts small and ends big, as the plot, rolling snowball style, rapidly gathers substance and scope. Gabrielle Fox, recently out of rehabilitation after an accident which has left her paraplegic, is sent to work at a high-security psychiatric institution for criminally disturbed teenagers. Her first patient is Bethany Krall. Now 16, Bethany killed her mother at 14 by repeatedly stabbing her with a screwdriver. Now she's having terrifying, violent and horribly accurate visions of natural disasters. Is Bethany really predicting the future... or is she making it happen?

The Rapture starts slowly before building to a frenetic, tense, action-packed conclusion. However, what it gains in pace it loses in realism and moves firmly into the apocalyptic thriller genre rather than the subtler, more psychological read I was expecting, to the point where I rather felt I'd read two different books altogether. Not that that's really a criticism. It's thought-provoking, deals with huge themes and events, and includes many moments of incredibly dark humour as well as nail-biting tension - there were times when I was strongly reminded of some of the work of Chuck Palahniuk.

I didn't enjoy The Rapture quite as much as I loved Jensen's earlier novel, The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. Interestingly, both novels have at their core a disturbed and dislikeable child with unexplained psychic abilities - but give me creepy, precocious little Louis over the stroppy, attention-seeking Bethany any time. I realise, of course, that Bethany is supposed to be vile, but it's clear that we're also supposed to come to feel sorry for her. And yes, I did... but nowhere as much as I felt the author wanted me to. And ultimately, I preferred the microcosmic focus of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, which revolves around a single dysfunctional family, to the global sweep of The Rapture. But that's a small criticism. The Rapture is crammed with multiple layers of nuance and theme, convincingly flawed characters and a rollercoaster of a plot. Maybe not the most uplifting book you'll ever read, but the more you read, the more you'll struggle to put it down.
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on 28 August 2012
In the near future, a young disabled psychologist is assigned to look after a genuinely psychotic teenager convicted of killing her evangelical mother. A fairly unpleasant assignment in the best of circumstances, but this girl - Bethany Krall - claims to have visions of the future, and the bizarre thing is they're all coming true.

Climate change meets faith and religion, meets the end of the world in this horror/sci-fi tale that leans a little more towards John Wyndham than J.G. Ballard in the British apocalyptic stakes. The dreamy prose style might initially put a reader off, but it's worthwhile persevering - even if it does end up with an overly-charged, melodramatic conclusion which doesn't really do justice to all that went before.

At the centre are two really good female characters: Gabrielle Fox, recently confined to a wheelchair and finding it difficult to cope, despite her outer confidence; and Bethany Krall - the real stand-out presence of the book - an absolutely convincing psychopath, whose madness is horribly off-putting, but also a way for her to make connection with her fellow man. Okay, everyone else is a bit flat and cardboard - but most of the book is about the central pair, and so we can cope with a little 2D when Gabrielle and Bethany are so three-dimensional.

Some of the notions Jenson raises don't really go anywhere, for example: is Bethany not merely predicting these catastrophes, but actually causing them a la Richard Burton in `The Medusa Touch'? (Sorry, a gratuitous reference just for fans of bad 1970's British horror films.) But then if a reader is picking up a novel of ideas, then it is certainly better to have too many than too few.
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on 25 May 2011
The world of "The Rapture" is our very near future, one in which dramatic weather events are common, the Middle East is in serious trouble, and evangelical Christianity is gaining more and more adherents.

This literary thriller with elements of science fiction is well-written, witty, and exciting. The characters include a paraplegic art therapist, her patient - a psychotic teenager who claims to be able to predict the future, and a host of scientists and environmentalists, all of whom are enjoyable company.

This near-future setting is familiar enough to make the events described believably terrifying, and Jensen's descriptive skill is such that one feels one is actually there, witnessing events with the characters, feeling their shock and awe.

Fans of Jensen's work will not be disappointed, but I can also imagine this novel gaining her a raft of new readers.
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on 29 November 2010
Enjoyed The Rapture hugely. A romantic thriller, it carried me away on a great tsunami of delicious prose, absurd characters having misunderstandings, and terrific apocalyptic vision. Loved the science and hugely ambitious unlikelihoods (the giant message on Greenland did slightly leave me behind) but you do need to suspend your disbelief. It reminded me most of Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow. There are a lot of typos, which is a bit distracting. And a moment when 'he' takes his clothes off, but then is fully dressed when making love. But really, a fun read. Jensen does action very well. I will now go and look at her other books.
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There are some great things about 'The Rapture'; the themes and ideas are intriguing and Liz Jensen has a powerful command of metaphor. Sadly though, I don't feel 'The Rapture' managed to be the sum of its parts.

Set in the near future, the author has created a credible world, poised on the brink of disaster. Jensen's extrapolations are pessimistic, bleak and sadly plausible. The religious tensions created by the human race reaching its 'End of Days' are well handled, and the analysis of our collective psyche makes for provocative reading.

The two central characters are doctor and patient. Bethany is a young manipulative psychiatric patient, who brutally murdered her mother. Gabrielle, her psychologist, would be a fairly run-of-the-mill character, were it not for the fact she is paraplegic. This gives Gabrielle an unusual fragility, and deep insecurity that is pivotal to the plot's machinations. During therapy sessions, Bethany starts to accurately predict a series of cataclysmic events that she says will lead up to an apocalypse.

Bethany's character is something of a cliché; a wounded and angry young woman, but the novel's premise allows Jensen to ask some interesting questions. What would happen if a psychotic killer could accurately predict the end of the world? Who would listen? Would anybody take the predictions seriously? Conveniently, Gabrielle has recently started dating a climate expert, who can't help but take an interest.

It's from here that things start to go wrong with the novel. With the world hurtling towards Armageddon, it seems only a band of guerilla physicists can keep it at bay. Implausibly well equipped guerilla physicists. It just doesn't ring true. Neither do the actions of some of the peripheral characters. It's hard to explain how without giving away important plot points - but too many things happen just to advance the plot or create tension, instead of events unfolding naturally. (By way of analogy - if a fifty pound note had been left on a bench in a crowded shopping centre, should 'The Rapture's' characters need it to be there later on in the day, it would have still been there.) Too many times, I found myself thinking, 'Hang on, why wouldn't...'

To exacerbate the problem further the action sequences are rather clunky - Jensen's prose is beautiful, but at times her gorgeous description detracts from what's actually happening. It seems rather churlish to berate a novel for being too descriptive, but sometimes with a thriller, short and direct is the best. Overall I finished 'The Rapture' rather disappointed, not because it is a bad novel, but because it could have been a great one. This is a book that aims high, but doesn't quite reach its target.
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on 19 July 2009
Gabrielle Fox, the main character, is unlike any other heroine I have read about. She is very vulnerable after having survived a traumatic car accident. Her career as a psychotherapist leads her to a job in a psychiatric hospital for troubled teenagers. There she meets Bethany, a 16 year old who has murdered her own mother and who also seems able to predict natural disasters. Gabrielle has the task of discovering if Bethany really can tell the future or whether she is a very talented manipulator. Even given Bethany's crime and appalling attitude, I found myself warming to her character. The fact that she comes from an Evangelical background, her father being a preacher man, is crucial to the plot. As an open-minded atheist I found the religious thread that runs through this story absolutely fascinating. I feel that whatever your thoughts on the Bible stories, this book will give you some intelligent food for thought. There is a lot of technical talk, but don't be put off by this as most of it can easily be understood by the context.

The author has included a note at the end of The Rapture in which she explains the intent behind her story. Jensen's writing is so eloquent that I was compelled to discover how the story ends, what would become of Bethany and uncover exactly how she knew of the forthcoming disasters. Along the way I felt the pain and emotional traumas that both Gabrielle and Bethany suffer. Both are fragile in their own ways and in need of love and care. This is a hard hitting topical storyline that made me sit up and listen to the message that Jensen is trying to get across. The ending blew me away and left me feeling that we really must pull together as a race and look after our planet.

To sum up, this is a captivating apocalyptic thriller set in the very near future. It's an extremely intelligent piece of work from Jensen, and she must have put in an incredible amount of hours of research to create a terrifyingly plausible storyline in The Rapture. It was a haunting read and one that I will be thinking about for a long time.
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VINE VOICEon 9 July 2011
I really wanted to like this book and did enjoy the writing style, but it was one of those that annoys you with little things as it goes along. It was a while ago that I read it so I can't remeber everything now, but for example: why did the main character call her love interest by his first and last names throughout - she had certainly slept with him and so should have been on first name terms really.

The book was even heading for a 4 star at one point, and then the end came. It was just so unbelieveable that I couldn't cope and skipped pages to get through all the waffle to find out what happened in the end.

I wouldn't recommend this, sorry.
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'That summer, the summer all the rules began to change, June seemed to last for a thousand years'.

The novel opens with a masterly evocation of a desperately hot summer when 'the sky pressed down like a furnace lid'. It's the near future and weather disasters are becoming far more frequent as the weather becomes increasingly unpredictable. Except it seems that someone may be able to predict the weather disasters... Gabrielle Fox's adolescent psychiatric patient Bethany Krall seems to be tuned into weather after her ECT treatment. Gabrielle has had a break from work after the car accident which killed her lover and left her in a wheelchair. She is vulnerable to Bethany's taunts of 'Wheels' but is starting to rebuild her life with the new job and new man Dr Frazer Melville.

Jensen interweaves her eco/psychological thriller with a love story and juxtaposes the scientific reaction to the apocalyptic conditions with the religious response of 'The Rapture'.

For me, she managed all of these strands very well. I read the novel in one sitting and was surprised that I hadn't hear of so skilful an author before. Since then the book has been chosen for Radio 4's Book at Bedtime and seems set for commercial success.
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