The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

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The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: A fabulous tale of friends and foes, public marriages and secret romances, this is a captivating story you won't want to put down.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
ISBN: 978-0340919828

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On the island of Nantucket, four couples have forged strong bonds of friendship. Together they live and love, raise their children, share their dreams. It's an idyllic existence and at the same time a very purposeful one. The couples have worked hard to create the quality of life they now enjoy and nothing can take it away from them. Until now. Greg and Tess are dead, the result of what appears to be a sailing accident. They leave behind two young children, and six devastated friends, all of whom have to come to terms with what has happened. For some there is guilt over final words said or final warnings left unsaid. For others, there is the knowledge that secret relationships will now have to stay that way evermore. The Castaways is the book of that fateful summer, the accident and its aftermath, but it's more than just that. It's a look at the precious role friends and family play in our lives, and how innocent actions or words can change the course of history forever.

I don't tend to be in favour of family trees or complicated relationship diagrams as a sort of prologue, but I would have loved one here as my keenness to jump straight into the story was hampered by my inability to keep the various characters straight. So Greg was married to Tess, who was Andrea's cousin, while Andrea is married to Ed (who others call the Chief) but used to date farmer Jeffery who is now married to Delilah, and friends with pill-popping Phoebe who is married to estate agent Addison, who has a child with someone else? It's a little much, and it takes a bit of reading and re-reading to get to grips with it all, but once I understood who was who and what was what I was captivated.

Don't be fooled by the light, pastel colour. This is not flitty chick lit, but a substantial piece of writing with mystery, intrigue, betrayal and lots and lots of secrets. It has a very mature, established tone to it, and the writing is wonderfully lyrical. Reminiscent of Jodi Picoult's work, this is an engaging, intricate read I didn't want to end. Reading it I really began to care about the characters, and desperately wanted to solve the mystery of the accident along with them, and gain some closure in the process. There is a clear plot to the story, which continues even through the changes of narrator with every chapter, and this is complemented by numerous little detours or tangents into specific events from the characters' pasts. It's all woven together beautifully, and the strong ties between the characters are clear, irrespective of who is talking.

The writing is lively and vivid, and paints a wonderful portrait of both the island itself and those who inhabit it. As we uncover new secrets one by one, along with the characters who too are learning these things for the first time, the key question that remains is whether people are willing and able to forgive in order to move forward, or whether the events of the past will now haunt them forever.

The setting of Nantucket works well with the story. As an island off the north east coast of the USA it is both part of the country and isolated from it at the same time. When Delilah takes the children to the mainland for a movie night, it's clear that this is a special treat and not a trip they make that often. When the last flight of the day lands, and the final ship has sailed, the island's inhabitants are well and truly cut off from the wider world until the next morning, and this compounds the feeling of closeness between the couples, the feeling that they are a special set up who need to band together to help each other.

This book strikes a perfect balance between having enough drama to keep it interesting, but not so much that you roll your eyes at the unbelievablity of it all. The characters all have their individual flaws but are, on the whole, a likeable group, and you can understand why they are friends, in spite of their clear differences. At times they may speak their mind, or behave a little out of character, but again, on the whole they act their age (30s and early 40s) and are human with it. It is refreshing to read about a group with just enough but not too many problems, which take just a tiny bit of shine off their otherwise gleaming lives.

The Castaways is a fab summer read that kept my attention and interest from start to finish. It is a chunky book, with lots of lovely pages to plough through, and would be a great one for a prolonged plane journey, or for when you're lounging on the beach.

Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book.

The House At Riverton may be set in post-war Britain rather than present day America, but had the same effect on me, as it too combines some wonderful characters with a juicy story and effective use of suspense.

Buy The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand at Amazon.com.


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