Review: The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman

The Blurb

‘My name is Raphael Ignatius Phoenix and I am a hundred years old – or will be in ten days’ time, in the early hours of January 1st, 2000, when I kill myself…’

Raphael Ignatius Phoenix has had enough. Born at the beginning of the 20th century, he is determined to take his own life as the old millennium ends and the new one begins. But before he ends it all, he wants to get his affairs in order and put the record straight, and that includes making sense of his own long life – a life that spanned the century. He decides to write it all down and, eschewing the more usual method of pen and paper, begins to record his story on the walls of the isolated castle that is his final home. Beginning with a fateful first adventure with Emily, the childhood friend who would become his constant companion, Raphael remembers the multitude of experiences, the myriad encounters and, of course, the ten murders he committed along the way . . .
And so begins one man’s wholly unorthodox account of the twentieth century – or certainly his own riotous, often outrageous, somewhat unreliable and undoubtedly singular interpretation of it.

The Review

The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman is a fantastical tale of one man and it chronicles his 100 years of life. It does so in a very unusual fashion. The story is told in reverse and the non linear story is made up of the main character – Raphael Ignatius Phoenix’s autobiographical writings on the walls of his final home.

Raphael Ignatius Phoenix plans to kill himself throughout the book and reminds you of that fact at every juncture. He has a very precise suicide plan mapped out but before that he unburdens all his ill deeds – in the most case a plethora of murders – as a kind of cathartic experiment before he eventually offs himself.

This is a very intriguing story and could be likened to both Forrest Gump and The Life and Times of Walter Mitty in that Raphael Ignatius Phoenix’s actions have an effect on real world events or indeed are placed within real time activities – e.g. the Second World War, Hollywood Heyday etc. Overall, it is a love story that transcends time and place.

There are some very admirable things about this book. It is magical in parts along with being quirky and funny. However, I can’t help but feel that due to the book being published posthumously that the story didn’t get the full editorial benefits it would have done if Paul Sussman had been alive. Some chapters felt dragged out and a lot of the times I would struggle to maintain interest. The frustrating thing is that the story has so much potential, however, I can fully appreciate that those who released The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix wanted to maintain the integrity of the author’s work and to also celebrate his voice. Therefore, this is not something I can hold against the book.

This is an interesting story but to me it does not feel polished. I would encourage people to read it to see if they share my opinion.

The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman

The final Testimony of Raphael Ignatious Phoenix

Leave a comment

  1. 17th April 2015 / 5:09 pm

    Good review Lisa. It’s an interesting concept for a book.

    • 17th April 2015 / 8:46 pm

      Thank you Guy. It was hard to get into but I am glad that I persevered.

      Hope you are well.


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