Jensen, Liz 1959-
Jensen, Liz 1959-
Born 1959, in Oxfordshire, England; divorced; children: two sons.
Home—London, England. Agent—Clare Alexander, 18-21 Cavaye Pl., London SW10 9PT, England.
Egg Dancing (novel), Bloomsbury (London, England), 1995, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1996.
Ark Baby (novel), Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1998.
War Crimes for the Home, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2002.
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax (novel), Bloomsbury (London, England), 2004, Tin House (New York, NY), 2005.
My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time (novel), Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2006.
The Paper Eater, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2006.
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax was made into a screenplay by Anthony Minghella for Miramax.
Liz Jensen is the daughter of an Anglo- Moroccan mother and a Danish father. Although living primarily in England, she has worked in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and France. In a Three Monkeys online interview, she stated: "I feel more European than I do British." Jensen normally writes light comedy, such as her earlier works Egg Dancing and Ark Baby, but also reveals a darker side to her writing ability with The Ninth Life of Louis Drax.
Egg Dancing, Jensen's debut novel, presents a story of deception, genetic altering, and psychiatric capers. When suburban homemaker Hazel finds out that her son and the son of her husband's mistress havebeen genetically modified by her husband's experiments, she plots revenge. In a Booklist review, Joanne Wilkinson called the book "a witty, accomplished tale … in the tradition of Fay Weldon." A Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that "Jensen has a real gift for wickedly black humor," as well as "enough stylistic panache to hold a reader's attention firmly through the thicket of her excesses."
Jensen's second book, Ark Baby, presents a British society that suddenly becomes infertile and compensates for this by adopting primates as replacements for having no human children of their own. Two story lines, one of an English veterinarian fleeing an angry patient's ‘mother’ and the other of a crossbred human primate who is searching for his own identity, come together and may lead to solving Britain's fertility problems. A contributor to Publishers Weekly noted that "this book will be appreciated by readers who are willing to sacrifice a surprise ending for a funny, booklength thought experiment." Beth Gibbs, writing for Library Journal, flatly stated that the first word that came to mind when recounting this book was "bizarre." Gibbs went on to claim, however, that "it is also clever, well crafted, cutting-edge, and hysterically funny."
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax differs from Jensen's previous books in the mood of the plot and in its characters. Nine-year-old Louis Drax has had nine otherwise life-ending accidents in his short life; with the ninth time, he fell off a cliff and apparently drowned in the river at its base. Later that night, however, the mortician notices he is still alive. Between the missing father, the hysterical mother, and the mysterious doctor who communicates with the comatose boy, Jensen tries new character dynamics in this novel. Joanne Wilkinson, writing in Booklist, called the "breakthrough novel … a literary thriller that's almost impossible to put down." Entertainment Weekly reviewer Troy Patterson was not as full of praise as other critics, though. He wrote that "the book's twists look far more silly than suspenseful." A Publishers Weekly critic noted, however, that "Jensen's gift for black humor and off-kilter narratives shines throughout this page-turner," concluding that by the end of the book "the reader is left eager for more."
Returning to light humor, Jensen published My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time in 2006. Charlotte, a late-nineteenth- century prostitute-cum-maid in Copenhagen, finds her life flipped upside down upon entering the basement of her employer and time-traveling to twenty-first-century London. After navigating new luxuries, such as plumbing and flavored condoms, Charlotte must help herself and those who came before her to return to their old lives before the time machine is destroyed. Despite liking Charlotte's character, some reviewers did not give the story top marks. Commenting on the language usage in an Entertainment Weekly review, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh felt the style "render[ ed] this effort more campy than clever." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book "fun and sometimes scintillating, but not necessarily delicious." On the other hand, David Mattin called Jensen's effort "a pleasurable read" in a London Independent article. He went on to praise the writing style, saying that "by mixing the fanciful and the pragmatic so thoroughly, Jensen makes a narrative that respects only its own rules, so that by the time Charlotte is made to traverse two centuries, we hardly blink."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 1996, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Egg Dancing, p. 790; November 15, 2004, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, p. 561.
Bookseller, April 2, 2004, Joel Rickett, "A Family Timebomb," p. 28.
Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, fall, 2005, Barbara L. Estrin, "Mutating Literary Form and Literalizing Scientific Theory in Liz Jensen's Ark Baby," p. 41.
Entertainment Weekly, January 15, 2005, Troy Patterson, review of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, p. 95; July 14, 2006, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time, p. 84.
Independent (London, England), July 2, 2006, David Mattin, review of My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2004, review of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, p. 1025; May 1, 2006, review of My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time, p. 429.
Library Journal, April 15, 1998, Beth Gibbs, review of Ark Baby, p. 113.
People, January 31, 2005, Porter Shreve, review of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, p. 47.
Publishers Weekly, January 15, 1996, review of Egg Dancing, p. 444; March 2, 1998, review of Ark Baby, p. 61; November 8, 2004, review of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, p. 34; April 3, 2006, review of My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time, p. 35.
Telegraph (London, England), February 7, 2006, review of My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Times.
Times (London, England), February 12, 2006, Ann McFerran, "Best of Times, Worst of Times," interview with Liz Jensen.
BookBrowse.com,http://www.bookbrowse.com/ (November 25, 2006), profile of Liz Jensen.
British Broadcasting Corp. Web site, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (November 25, 2006), "The Art of Adaptation," interview with Liz Jensen.
Liz Jensen Home Page,http://www.lizjensen.com (November 25, 2006).
Three Monkeys Online, http://www.threemonkeysonline.com/ (November 25, 2006), Andrew Lawless, "The Most Irresponsible Occupation," interview with Liz Jensen.