My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read this book because it was mentioned on The Readers podcast and was their next book club book. I tried to finish it yesterday so I could post a question for the author who is being interviewed for the podcast this evening. However I think I may have rushed through it. There is a lot to this book that I may have missed.
At school I took O level English Language, so I am good at spelling, grammar and where to put an apostrophe! However I didn’t take English Literature (I went down the science route) and as a consequence I think my reading is a bit superficial. My favourite books are crime or thrillers or anything with a vampire in it. There’s usually a murder at the beginning, and you either know who did it but have to see how the police find out who it was, or you don’t know who did it so you try to work it out from the clues. And at the end you have a nicely wrapped up story. Job done!
This isn’t one of those books. It is haunting and atmospheric and “literary”. Set on a strange island which nothing from the modern world has reached, men come from the mainland to trade with the islanders. There is no electricity or mod cons, the women knit, or sew and the men fish to trade for food, and the island has it’s own form of justice in a building called The Thrashing House. No-one comes out of the Thrashing House alive, and they are usually transformed into something that represents their crime or personality when they were alive.
When some of the young boys on the island go missing the women accuse their men of trading the boys with the men from the mainland, but Mary doesn’t believe that this is what happened to her brother Barney. Another girl, Morgan, lives with her strange family and mentally unstable mother, in a house surrounded by a 13 foot high fence and is never allowed to leave the house as her mother fears something bad will happen to her. Morgan believes that real life is like a fairy tale and one day she will be rescued, but she still tries to escape.
I really wish I could describe what happens next in the book better, but I’m not really sure I understood it myself. There is a magical element, ghosts and the forgetting herb, and strange ropes that turn into snakes. At the end of the book I wanted a bit more explanation of what happened to some of the characters. And parts which I wondered why they were there at all like the character of Valmarie and her seal skin, very odd.
I look forward to listening to The Readers podcast and the chat with the author to see if she can shed any more light on it for me!