The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor
|The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: On a remote and isolated island, the ultimate dysfunctional family fractures even further when an unexpected stranger arrives. Beautiful, desolate, violent and angry, it'a a riveting story of both personal and social insanity.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: January 2008|
Eight-year-old Finn lives in the wreck of an ark on a remoted and isolated island, with only his father and two sisters for company. They are the only survivors of a second great flood, in which all other humans perished - even Finn's mother, who jumped overboard to save him - and the sea itself was poisoned. Finn's father casts himself as a modern-day Noah and the children are painfully aware of the sins of society which have brought them here.
They have only three books to provide for their education: fairy tales, Shakespeare, and the Bible. Otherwise, they spend their days cultivating the land, singing songs, and listening to their father snore, insensible on home-made wine. He might be Noah II, but something's not quite right in this regressive paradise. And when a stranger arrives on the island, having survived the toxic sea, things slowly start to unravel.
Taylor tells this story through a series of narrators - illiterate and naive Finn; his suspicious, adolescent older sister Alice; and Noah wannabe, Pa. As the focus shifts, the reader's grasp on this world tightens. Pa is a regressive, prone to bouts of violence and temper -whatever he is, it's pretty clear he's not God's chosen.
Finn, though, is so clearly what Pa idolises. He's naive and innocent and he has a good heart that overflows with love. Alice is older - she's coming of age and she also has some memory of what the world used to be like. She is the hinge of the book, really, and as Pa hovers over her, pulling her close but refusing to answer her questions,it's clear that whatever path she takes, she can only confirm his fears. If she's not contaminated by the past, she'll be contaminated by her own womanhood. It's all horribly, horribly fatalistic. But of course, only if you are Pa.
Taylor gradually peels back the layers of mystery and as the children's ignorance is gradually filled in with knowledge, the tension rises. It's beautifully done - the writing is spare and evocative, the inner thoughts of each character run like streams into one another, coalescing sometimes and colliding more often. Tension rises as much as in a horror novel - but this book is about personal and social madness and an Orwellian take on the corruption of innocence.
I loved it.
My thanks to the nice people at Faber for sending the book.
The Pesthouse by Jim Crace is another look at a rejected modern world, equally beautifully written, but a lot more hopeful.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor at Amazon.com.
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