“The Rapture” by Liz Jensen -distinctly English take on the “End of Days”

The Rapture Liz Jensen

This “End of Days” tale is more fiction with science in it than classic science fiction. The focus is on the characters and the different ways in which they are broken and on the nature and impact of belief on how we see ourselves and others.

Nevertheless, there is still a good end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it thriller to keep you turning the pages and solid science to keep everything credible.

“The Rapture” felt more real to me than other “End of Days” apocalyptic nightmare novels and movies, not just because it is set in the UK but because I feel a strong affinity for Gabrielle Fox, a paralysed therapist (now there’s a metaphor to conjure with), from whose point of view the story is told.

She and I share certain values and assumptions that are common amongst the Brit graduate population but which rarely surface in American fiction.She embraces atheism with a bone-deep belief that perhaps only someone raised as a Catholic can achieve. She despises Christian fundamentalism at an almost instinctive level because she views that kind of faith as pathological. She is apolitical but fundamentally distrusts politicians and authority figures, especially as she is one. She pursues a professional career because it is something she is good at but not passionate about. She is a therapist who is insightful without being empathic, who distrusts the tools and language of her trade and understands that psychiatric hospitals are funded more for their value as surrogate prisons than as places of healing.

All of this means that Gabrielle views the concept of “The Rapture” not only with disbelief but with contempt, so she makes the perfect foil for all those around her who believe the End of Days has arrived.

Gabrielle is more than a plot device. As she mourns for all that the accident that paralysed her has taken away and struggles to imagine what her life could be, she becomes the measuring stick for human hopes and fears which brings scale to the idea of what it would mean if the world didn’t end but we did.

The second remarkable character in “The Rapture” is Bethany Krall, Gabrielle’s teenage patient, confined to the hospital because she murdered her mother. Bethany is a wonderful creation:  convincing, frightening, violent, crude, repulsive, vulnerable, damaged and fundamentally honest behind all the lies.

“The Rapture” includes both credible science and credible scientists, even if rogue scientists with access to very large helicopters are little hard to imagine

My only reservation about “The Rapture” was that Gabrielle’s perspective came a little too much from her head rather than the heart but that could be because I also live in my head and I use fiction to try and find the way to my heart.

This is a book that has “MAKE ME INTO A MOVIE” written all over it. I hope, if that happens, that they’ll keep it in the UK and hire a director with an atheist’s heart to make it.

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