Monday, 25 July 2011

Book of the Week - Week Three

It's time again for 


This week's book was chosen because I simply can't stop telling people about it. It's called The Island at the End of the World and it's by Sam Taylor, the author of The Amnesiac which I have not read but it sounds fantastic.

The basic plot of the book is that there has been another great flood and the sole survivors are a small family unit: Pa, Alice, Finn, and Daisy. They have lived for years and years on a small, idyllic island which seems to fulfill all their needs. One day, however, a boat is spotted on the horizon and a stranger wanders into their perfect world. While Pa worries that this will spin the world he has created out of control, the children start to grapple with what this new addition to their tribe could mean.

Now, to be perfectly honest, the only reason I picked up this book in the first place was that it was published by Penguin, my favorite publisher and holder of my undiminished faith in all of their novels. Twenty pages in, however, I was dismayed to find that perhaps I had for once picked the sole rotten apple in the bunch.

My main problems with the beginning of the novel had to do with their narratorial style. Each chapter switched between first person narrators, from Pa to Finn and back again, switching to Alice later in the book. While each of these narrative voices are very powerful, unfortunately, young Finn's style, having been raised on the island, is completely phonetic. While an understandable choice, it becomes grating to read and the novel seems more like an exercise in patience than an interesting read.

Sticking through it, though, proved gratifying. The story the novel tells is interesting and the last twenty or so pages were as page-turning as the best of them. I absolutely loved the conclusion. 

The absolute best part, however, was Alice's narrative voice. We don't get to experience it until about halfway through the novel, when Finn's narration switches to Alice's. One of the details in the book is that Pa had only brought three books with him on the ark: a book of children's fables, the Bible and the works of Shakespeare. Knowing that that is all Alice has known since she was a young girl, her voice is a beautiful mix of normal speech and Shakespearean poetry that heightens the strong emotions as the novel races towards the inevitable conclusion.

This book is nowhere near perfect and very hard to get into but I feel it rewards the reader at the end, telling a complete and thought-provoking story. Definitely worth a try. 

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