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Sunday, 3 April 2011

Review: The Island

Author: Sarah Singleton

Release date: 1st April 2010 UK
Genre: Realism / Thriller / Murder Mystery / YA
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Summary from Amazon:

Otto, Jen and Charlotte have planned the trip of a lifetime to India for their gap year, before going their separate ways to university. For Charlotte, it's an opportunity to get involved in an environmental project and finally feel like she's doing something worthwhile; for Otto, it's the perfect opportunity to take some real photos to help his career as a photojournalistic; for Jen, it's the realisation of a lifelong dream. But when Otto discovers the body of a girl on the beach, things take a sinister turn as he finds himself a prime suspect in her murder. Together Otto, Charlotte and Jen start to unravel the mystery behind the girl's death. Can they discover the truth and clear Otto's name and even if they do will they be able to handle what they find as their dreams of paradise crumble around them...


The Island is a complex thriller set in an Indian paradise.

This novel is told from three viewpoints. Firstly, there is Otto. An eighteen year old boy obsessed with photography and is every part the voyeur. Secondly, there is Charlotte who has been Otto’s best friend for years. She is a very practical person and seemed much more mature than her friend. Thirdly, there is Jen. A one time a girlfriend of Otto’s, she is an ethereal character who exists partly in the real world and partly in a world of spirits, auras and psychic intuition.

The Island is really a rather strange and beguiling book. At first, I thought I’d never get beyond the half way point. Otto begins to tell his story. He has arrived in Goa. He has met a British girl called Maria and he lusts after her. The opening chapters are very voyeuristic. Otto is completely self-obsessed and obnoxious. I just couldn’t like him at all and his character viewpoint is so pretentious that it alienated me.

But then Maria dies in most mysterious circumstances having stood Otto up. And the story goes back in time to Charlotte’s viewpoint and tells of how she and Otto first met Jen. From there the story was much more engaging. I liked Charlotte. Her viewpoint was much more down to earth and practical. She is hugely frustrated by Otto. She has been in love with him forever but although he notices every other girl who wanders past, he doesn’t see his best friend as a potential love interest. Charlotte is incredibly patient with Otto and essentially waits for the day that he will notice her.

Anyway, the three characters plan a trip to India in their gap year and this brings us to the story of Otto and the murder of Maria. The three viewpoints then tend to alternate in the telling of the story of the revellers on the beach and the identity of Maria’s murderer.

The Island has a complex structure which moves between the past and the present. It is not the sort of book that you should pick up if you’re after a spot of light humour. It is the sort of book you should pick up if you really want to challenge yourself and do battle with something. You will win the battle if you stick with it. The story is exotic and I loved the location and all the cultural references. It was completely refreshing to read a novel set in India.

For all my struggling with the opening, I am so glad that I persisted. Now I’ve finished The Island I’m dying to know what happens next. I want to follow Charlotte’s journey (even if it means I have to read more from Otto’s point of view). The style, the themes and the exoticism of The Island would make it a great adult crossover. An enticing and yet challenging read!

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending me the book to review.

Read for the British Books Challenge 2011


Asamum said...

I love your review but don't think this would be something for me.

Fiona said...

I lost the battle I'm afraid. I didn't stick with it!

Vivienne said...

I like the idea of reading this as something a bit different. I may need a reality check with my books for a little while as I think fantasy is taking over.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Great review! Not necessarily my kind of story, but it does sound interesting. I'm glad you persisted, since this persistence lead you to a great story!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Sounds good. I'm such a sucker for a mystery.