Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"The Island at the End of the World" by Sam Taylor

Oh, Sam Taylor, you are a tease. You tempt me with the most tantalizing tidbits until I am hanging on your every word and absolutely ravenous for more. What am I supposed to do when I have to go to work instead of reading the rest of your book?

At work on Saturday I could not concentrate on my job for all of the questions roiling in my head. I was dying to grasp the key to the story, and it was killing me to wait until I got back home where I could pick up the book again. My brain could only search for the answers. WHERE was the island? WHAT was the time frame? WHY did Will come? Was Mary REALLY dead? This was just how I felt when I was reading Taylor's Amnesiac. (And in case you weren't sure, that is an awesome--if temporarily frustrating--feeling.) I didn't want to put the book down, but I had to, and I hated it. I was worthless until I got back to reading.

Well, now I Know All. I feel triumphant.

I picked up this book purely on the strength of Taylor's other two novels, and until I began to read I knew nothing of the premise. I was surprised to find that the book is basically a modern-day sequel to the Bible story of Noah's Ark. Pa and his three children have survived a worldwide flood--which occurs in our future, but don't get any sci-fi ideas about the book, because it doesn't go that direction--and they are still living off the land eight years later. They don't know if any other humans have survived the flood, but they don't think it likely. And that right there is all I can tell you about the plot without giving away what you will have to earn when you read it yourself.

As soon as I finished Chapter One and flipped the page to Chapter Two, dialect reared its ugly head in the form of Pa's 8-year-old son Finn. At first I couldn't get used to Finn's narration. I was not sure if Taylor was trying to convey that Finn was young, or uneducated, or both; but it actually came across as if Finn had a mental handicap (though later, when we hear Finn speak through the ears of another narrator, his grammar and syntax are perfectly normal). The way Finn's chapters are written, it's like a combination of ignorance--misspelled words that don't sound any different when spelled correctly--and a Southern accent, like substituting "Ahm" for "I'm." Normally the words flow smoothly in my head when I read, but all Finn's typos resulted in choppy, stilted reading, as when Finn tells us his mom died "wen I wer lil." (Yes, Finn's narration is that bad.) I quickly decided I would only accept this if I found there was a good reason for it, but after a few chapters I ended up growing accustomed to it anyway. I do have one good thing to say about Finn's dialect, however: The author is British, the characters in this book are from the U.S., and because of the way his narration is written, it is very obvious that Finn has an American accent.

I think I am in love with Sam Taylor (well, at least his books, anyway). In this interview he mentions his next novel (wooooohoo!) but tells us agonizingly little about it. I love how Taylor assumes his readers are intelligent enough that he does not have to spell everything out for them, and mature enough that they don't need hand-holding. There are no spare parts in this novel. There is no fat to trim.

I enjoyed piecing together the timeline, as little clues about it were gradually doled out in a rather convoluted manner instead of being laid out clearly, concisely, and chronologically. I won't tell you what I figured out, since I want to leave it for you to discover on your own when you read it. There is much to discuss after reading this book, but just as much that I need to leave unsaid to avoid spoilers. Please pick up a copy so that you can tell me what your answers are to my questions!

Just remember this quote from Pa as you read: "Nothing is ever quite as it appears."


Kathy said...

Oh, and Pa drops a lot of F-bombs, in case you need a warning.

Hannah Stoneham said...

Wonderful to read your review - you are so enthusiastic about this book! It sounds like an interesting premise. Blast that put-the-book-down-I-am-late-for-work feeling - I know it well!

Thanks for sharing and happy Monday.


Jo said...

I loved this! (as I think you already know). And similar to you, I spent most of the book trying to figure out what exacly was going on, where they were, and why!
I don't think my e-mail is on my profile, but I have added it in the comments on my post about this, if you stll wanted to discuss this.

BookQuoter said...

Thanks. Very nice review. I will have to pick it up. I will come back and let you know.

Alethea said...

Thanks for posting this! I liked it a lot but I think a lot of people will be lost, like they were with Lost. It's not for everyone. And yeah, Pa has a big pottymouth! :D

Lesa said...

Wow, I've not heard of this author but the premise of this book is very intriguing-- I'm going to check my libraries for it.

About Finn's narration-- I love well written dialects but that does sound a bit annoying.