If there was a recipe for the kind of book I love, it would include religious debate, the Gothic and 19th century medicine – and this book has it all. The story follows Paul Clement, a 19th century Parisian doctor who has a passion for resuscitation and what lies in the ‘beyond’. After he goes full Flatliners (stops his heart so he can see what happens after death and is then bought back) he gets a full glimpse of what lies beneath, and unfortunately brings something back with him.
The story feels like its in three separate parts that don’t completely gel together. There is the idea of old magic in the beginning, and although the thread is almost pulled through to the end it never quite meets in the middle. This is the general feeling I had for all of the book. It tries to introduce a lot of ideas but never really quite explores them fully. I love a good debate about the benevolence of God, and this does have the potential to have a fully rounded argument but it doesn’t quite come to any conclusion – even if there was no solid conclusion to have. Taking on the idea is a massive task for any author, and I think this was more ambitious than the novel was able to fully portray.
All in all, I wanted more. The characters are great and well rounded and I enjoyed the second part in the country much more than in the city but this shouldn’t have been the case. 19th century Paris is the personification of Hell, and this should have been used so much more. Notre-Dame was mentioned but it didn’t become a character in the way I would expect from a traditional Gothic novel.
If you’re looking for an easy and interesting read that I would recommend The Forbidden. It’s by no means perfect but it is fun, and actually quite well written.