Any One Book: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

I could not put this book down, it was that addictive.

The story was very, very good Zevin’s whole idea of the ‘afterlife’ is amazing and reminds me a lot of the Elysium Fields from Greek mythology, it even includes a river, although it doesn’t function exactly like the River Lethe.

Anyway, the book is an easy read, but that’s doesn’t mean it comes without complexity. Some of the topics brought up are actually quite profound and thought-provoking, which is a surprise considering the main character is 15.

Now, I have a few gripes like the fact that it was written in the present tense. Usually I hate reading stuff in the present tense, it feels stunted and childish and for the most part is boring. On a few occasions I thought to myself that Zevin was a bad writer, it felt like she patronised the reader and stated the obvious. But then I reminded myself of the ideas she came up with and the world she created and realised she wasn’t actually that bad, in my opinion the present tense is a pretty limited tool for an author and should only be used by those who know how to wield it properly.

That was really only the main problem I had with it, the other things are just small observations really (like, if dog language is called canine why is cat language called catus? surely it should be feline……although I have just looked it up and catus is latin for cat maybe there is some sense in after all).

Anyway, enough of that. Liz starts off as a very unlikable character, she doesn’t listen to anyone, she’s pretty self obsessed and exceptionally rude….however she had just died so I’ll let her off. Liz isn’t exactly thrilled to find out she had died, although everyone else seems to have accepted their own deaths once they had caught on. She wants to go back and see her family, and she certainly gives it a go.

It’s after she sees her funeral on the Observation Deck of the S.S Nile that she really understands what has happened, and once it dawns on her that it’s not a dream she’s determined not to like Elsewhere, she treats her grandmother, Betty, awfully (even though she’s never met her before) and ends up doing everything she’s not supposed to do.

However, after an addiction to Observation Decks and a trip to the Well she starts to put things into perspective and actually realises everything is not as bad it seems.

There are some really unique ideas thrown into the mix. Not only is Elsewhere like Earth, but with a few differences, but some jobs have disappeared (like doctors, who needs them when you’re dead?) and people age backwards.

In Elsewhere backwards aging is all a part of the cycle of life, people continue to live in Elsewhere becoming children until eventually they are babies. At this point they are taken to the river which will carry them back to Earth so they can start life all over again.

It’s a nice idea, although to quite a few people becoming young again might not be all that appealing. It’s a very good book and despite the writing style it is an addictive story. I wanted to know how Liz would cope with it, how she could adjust to being dead and how things would pan out. It was intriguing and compelling and although it dealt with death it wasn’t depressing.

It is a very enjoyable read with a view on the afterlife that not many books cover; it’s nice to think that life just carries on.



3 responses to “Any One Book: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

  • beckyday6

    It’s very interesting reading your review of this, because although I remember loving this book, I don’t remember all that much about it! Certain bits stand out, but a lot is also blurr. Like you I remember it being very thought provoking and thinking the concept was really intriguing. The whole cat/dog for instance I don’t remember at all! Haha. 😛

    The first tense thing – weirdly is something I never noticed until recently after I started blogging, I never thought about. I didn’t notice it when I was reading things, but now that I’m more aware I think I liked the first person tense a lot in my teens because it meant I could live vicariously through the character, if that makes sense. I think all the stories I wrote when I was younger were also in the first person tense. (I wasn’t even aware of different tenses then, I just did it automatically) I don’t really have anything against them, however now I think I much prefer the third person, most of my favourite books seem to be third person. But then again the Hunger Games was in the present tense….so I don’t know. Hmm… I think I’ve confused even myself. 😛

    Anyhoooooows, glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

    • Summer Grant

      Haha, how long has it been since you read it? To be fair they’re not massive parts of the book so I can understand wh you forgot!

      Ah no, I meant present tense. I love first person, that’s what I write in whenever I do creative writing, plus Kelley Armstrong writes like that too 😛 I just mean the whole ‘Liz is doing this and now she does this. She thinks this and that’ I just think a story is told better in the past tense.

      It was very good, thank you for recommending it! 😀

      • beckyday6

        Haha hmmmm…..lets see, I think it was about 2009!

        Ohh right, I kind of always assumed they were the same thing. She does? See, I never even noticed! I’m not very good at this tense thing 😛 That does sound quite a weird way of wording things I must admit.

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