The Ninth Life of Louis Drax

This essay is from my Readings in Contemporary Fiction class. We had to do a group project where we’d pick a book and give a presentation on it. I suggested we read The Road being that it was hot at the time and I wanted to read it. A groupmate suggested this book because he had read it before and knew it was good. Better to go with a safe option than the unknown. The devil you know perhaps. So i read it. It’s a good book which i recommend highly.

As an aside, there were three of us in the group. I was assigned to do two parts of the presentation. My groupmates were so excited about what they had to say that I only got to present a partial of one of my parts and none of the second. They just kept talking and talking and talking. Later in the bathroom a classmate remarked that i was quiet during the presentation. I told him that my groupmates talked over me during one of my parts and talked so long that I never got to present the second part. And since we were being graded as a group, like as whole and not individually, what difference did it make. I believe we received an ‘A’ grade.

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax – Summary

Nine-year old Louis Drax is accident prone. He has had one life threatening accident for every year of his life. When Louis is nine he and his family go on a weekend picnic in the mountains. The purpose of the picnic is to celebrate his mother’s birthday and also offer Louis’ estranged parents a chance at reconciliation. During the picnic Louis has the ninth accident of his life, falling off of a cliff and nearly drowning. Louis ends up being comatose in a persistent vegetative state and his father goes missing after Louis’ fall. After an unexplained incident at the hospital in Louis is transferred to a clinic that specializes in comatose patients. There he is treated by Dr. Pascal Dannechet. The married Dr. Dannechet takes a particular interest in Louis’ case and also begins an affair with Louis’ mother Natalie.

Natalie tells Dr. Dannechet that during the picnic Louis wanted to eat sweets but his father Pierre forbade him. Natalie and Pierre argued and Louis ran away from them. Pierre caught Louis and in his anger threw Louis off of the cliff and then fled. Pierre is now wanted for attempted murder and Natalie claims that he has been stalking her. Dr. Dannechet assures Natalie that she and Louis are safe under his care and begins investigating the incident at the picnic.

Dr. Dannechet and Natalie receive letters signed by Louis warning them to end their affair. It is believed that Pierre wrote the letters and the police are called. It is later determined that Dr. Dannechet wrote the letters himself and comes under suspicion. Dr. Dannechet realizes that Louis is able to communicate with him while he is sleeping and had dictated the letters written by Dr. Dannechet while Dannechet was sleep walking. Dr. Dannechet is sent on medical leave and goes to Vichy to speak with Louis’ first doctor. Dr. Meunier informs Dr. Dannechet that he doesn’t believe that Natalie wants Louis to recover, once even trying to kill Louis. This was the incident that precipitated Louis being transferred to Dr. Dannechet’s care.  

The body of Pierre Drax is found in a cave located near the cliff where Louis had is accident. With this discovery and the testimony of Dr. Meunier Natalie comes under suspicion for the murder of Pierre and the attempted murder of Louis. Natalie is questioned by the police but sticks to the original story of Pierre throwing Louis off of the cliff then running away. Dannechet learns from Pierre’s mother that Natalie tricked her son into leaving his first wife by claiming that she became pregnant with Louis after being raped. Pierre intended to confront Natalie about this at the picnic and had wanted to take sole custody of Louis.

Dr. Dannechet plans a seance (?) to try to find out he truth of that day on the mountain. During the seance Louis speaks through the sleeping Dannechet and tells what happened. Louis was eating his mother’s birth control pills. Pierre and Natalie argue, Pierre accused Natalie of abusing Louis and Louis ran away. He was caught at the cliffs edge and a tussle over him started. Natalie and Pierre push and shove each other and Pierre falls off of the cliff. In an attempt to please his mother Louis walks backward until he falls over the edge.

Natalie, who had been watching the seance, runs away. Dannechet spots her at the edge of a forest. Natalie runs into the forest and burns to death in a forest fire, Dannechet is severely injured. After a long recovery Dannechet returns to treating Louis and begins to reconcile with his wife, who had left him over his affair with Natalie.              

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