Whether you read the book or saw the TV version back in the 1990s: in The Sculptress, Minette Walters created an unforgettable character with the incarcerated Olive Martin. Now, in this millennium, in The Rapture Liz Jensen serves up a similarly unforgettable incarcerated character in Bethany Krall.
At fourteen Bethany killed her mother; two years on she meets her new art therapist, Gabrielle Fox. Bethany is hugely unpleasant and prone to violence, but she is also an extremely intelligent and perceptive sixteen year old making her a very engaging character. And perception is her strength, for Bethany cannot only hit a nerve with the personal issues of those she meets, but she can also predict future ecological disasters, or so she claims. Indeed, her talents led to the demise of her previous art therapist.
Set in the not-so-distant-future, and after the 2012 Olympics in London, global warming has hooked into the environment faster than Velcro could attach. Gabrielle Fox is resurrecting her career in more ways than one. She has taken up a post on the coast of south east England and arrives in a wheelchair. Her sharp mind and determination are focused on her own need for newly-sought independence as well as the income to be gained to support herself through this act. But in a place that houses disturbed teenagers, Gabrielle has her work cut out and needs her own carer most of the time. All too soon this circumstance manifests itself as the violent Bethany attempts control.
Jensen’s The Rapture weaves many a theme in its plot; many that will be new to you, for this is certainly an unusual novel. We have psychological and destructive thoughts; the potential apocalyptic effect of global warming; a love story, rendered more sensitive by one partner with a relatively new disability; the work of geophysicists in monitoring and anticipating our world; the beliefs of Evangelical Christians who think that the time has come for the Rapture, when the chosen will rise above the Apocalypse.
Deliberately, I say little about the plot of this novel, for it is quite unique. It makes for both a terrifying and terrifyingly gripping read. Of one thing you can be certain: you will have not read anything similar.
The Rapture garners an emotional response on many levels: the way we live; the way we relate to one another; frustration and the sense of loss; the way we use or abuse our planet; our perceptions of religion; the entities out of our control. All of this you will find in The Rapture, and in a way that leads to you questioning your own future.
I send this post for publication a week after we have seen more devastating earthquakes and aftershocks after Haiti, this time in Chile; a tsunami that did not materialise in further disaster from the Chile quake, thank God; and excessive flooding in the UK. On one thing I have to wonder: is Liz Jensen questioning her own ability to anticipate these disasters now?
The Rapture is an absorbing and tense read that pulls on the strings of your humanity. It will make you think; and think again.
Author website: Liz Jensen.