Wednesday, 31 January 2007

The Island - by Victoria Hislop

The Island bookcover I had no idea what this was about before I started on it, but it had been voted as the next book to read for our book club. I took a dislike to the cover straight away because it reminded me of "The State of the Union" by Douglas Kennedy which I thought was very superficial.

I was right.

It could so easily have been a comment on attitudes to diseases perceived to be both shameful and deadly but, as it was, it was lightweight and unbelievable. Karonga, where we first lived in Nyasaland, is now a research centre for leprosy, so the subject is of real interest to me. There are some parallels between attitudes to leprosy and HIV/Aids : stigma and discrimination are problems for both.

There was nothing convincing or plausible about the characters. They were either incredibly (nauseatingly?) good, or bad. I certainly didn’t like the characterisation of Maria and Anna: good woman, quiet, retiring and wanting to please, “hands held softly in her lap in a demure pose”; bad woman, high spirited, questioning, “mischief in her eyes and lips that didn’t smile”, “had her arms folded and glared …” I definitely preferred Anna who had a bit of spirit!

Worth noting too, was the immense difference between this description of the occupation by the Germans during WWII and that in Suite Fran├žaise, especially so as I have so recently read Suite Fran├žaise, but although that was a few books ago, I remember it more vividly. Another opportunity missed.

It's a shame, but I really didn't find it an enjoyable book in any way. The worst of it is that, reading the reviews in advance, you would have no idea. Where on earth are you supposed to find an honest opinion?

I'm hoping to get hold of a copy of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert which has a very similar theme though set in Honolulu. It has only two reviews on Amazon but both are good. It will be intersting to see how it compares.


  1. I have an unread h/b copy of Moloka'i if you haven't got it yet do you want to do a book exchange?

  2. I agree with your sentiments on The Island...infact I ranted about exactly the same thing (good maria vs bad anna) in my blog yesterday. Such a good premise for a book its a shame it just didn't deliver. And I can't believe such a fuss was made over it...

  3. dovegreyreader, that would be lovely but what can I offer you in return?

    I do have So Many Ways to Begin by Jon McGregor if you haven't read that but I think it's in France - it's certainly not in England with me. I can't check at the moment because himself has gone walkabout and the cat is home alone.

    My email address is a google mail one, and my user name is the letter A followed by a dot followed by alapage followed by the "at" sign. I hope that isn't too cryptic!

  4. jo, thanks for your comment. I have very unkind thoughts that perhaps the fuss was made because of Victoria Hislop's husband ... That really is being harsh but, as you say, the book didn't merit the fuss.

  5. I've e mailed the yahoo address that came up from your comment on my blog, hope it gets through.

  6. I have not read this book, so commenting would be stupid. But, when coming to books, I have allways several on my night table. It's my mood there and then that's tells me what to read.

    Just now it's Inez (Isabelle Allenda) because I'm digitalizing pictures from our voyages to Chile in the 1990's.

    If I want to have somthing relaxing, then the past year has been filled up with #1 Ladies Detective.... (It's deeper than..)

    Wow, I'm spending your time with all my comments:))


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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