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Submitted Literature

The Rapture

By Liz Jensen

Review

Fascinating novel that seamlessly intersects themes of madness, religion, personal tragedy and environmental issues against a dystopian background.

Liz Jensen’s novel revolves around the relationship between two key – though curiously co-dependent – characters with a host of other well-rounded characters joining at different parts. Gabrielle Fox, a psychologist who suffers a life-shattering car accident, comes to work at Oxsmith Adolescent Secure Psychiatric Hospital – her first appointment since being confined to a wheelchair and tragically losing the baby she was carrying. Here she encounters the elusive, violent and seemingly psychic Bethany Krall, who killed her mother at the age of 14 in a bloody and violent attack. What transpires in relation to Bethany’s murderous act – I’m reluctant to spoil the narrative by giving the game away here – demonstrates that what is recorded in clinical notes rarely tells gives the whole picture of an event.  

Coming from an extremely religious background, Bethany begins to predict ecological events and pass comment on individual’s personal histories without ever having been told such details. The hospital, having sent Gabrielle’s predecessor on ‘gardening leave’ for believing in Bethany’s tales, appear keen to silence the suggestion that Bethany’s predictions are anything other than psychosis, particularly given Bethany’s lack of progress while on the secure unit – we are told that she has been involved in serious violence on the ward and had made 4 attempts on her own life. We also witness Bethany’s violence – alongside her non-psychiatric adolescent propensity towards being irritatingly obtuse and defensive – in the novel.  ECT plays a curious role in this novel, interlinking geographical science and Bethany’s predictive powers – she requests ECT to enable her to ‘feel’ the events that she predicts.

When Bethany’s predictions begin coming true, Gabrielle involves noted scientists in her case in the search for a rational, scientific answer. The novel propels the reader towards an unexpected and very moving climax, in which psychiatric certainties – indeed, scientific certainties altogether – are challenged in a realistic-while-fantastic manner. 

Key Themes:

  • ECT
  • Religion
  • Revealing Reads
  • Self-destructive behaviour
  • Violence

Significant Quotes / Pages

62 – ‘The clouds are massing outside, unfurling in silent grey waves of vapour. Watching them role and spread, I realise that I need Bethany. When I concentrate on her, exquisitely unpleasant though it sometimes is – I can forget myself. And forgetting can be addictive, I’ve learned that by now. Bethany has no love for the world. If you feel that way, and maybe you have cause to, if you believe that you died at the age of fourteen, there can be worse things than being here, imagining that you house a ghost – a kind of raging electric Gaia – that empowers you. Bombarded by cataclysmic predictions about the consequences of global warming, and with a childhood forged in the increasingly popular notion of hellfire, why not give way to the delusion that you have special powers? With the temporary memory loss that comes with ECT, you can be born again every week, to voice extravagant threats or, in another mood, to find solace in small enclosed things, your anxieties and dreams in deep storage. I know about that, I’ve lived it: the hopes quietly shelved or violently thrown aside, the sustaining beliefs about humanity’s importance in the universe rendered absurd, meaningless.’

Reference: Liz, Jensen. 2009. The Rapture. Bloomsbury, 2009

Reviewer

- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Friday 16th April 2010