Wednesday, 8 September 2010
The Island by Victoria Hislop
While making my way through The Scarlet Letter recently I decided to pick up something easy to read alongside. I had already read Victoria Hislop’s second book The Return so decided to pick up her first book, the best-seller The Island.
The novel is set on the real Island of Spinalonga off the coast of Crete during the 50s when the Island was still being used as a leper colony. Before a cure was eventually found Greece sent many of its Leprosy sufferers to Spinalonga where the disease was able to be contained. Although the sufferers were cut off from their family and would die on the Island, many of them did have a better quality of life here than they would have had on the mainland. Previously to the opening of Spinalonga as a leper colony, sufferers would often live in the areas caves. At least on the island they received food, water and social security payments. The novel follows a family living on nearby Plaka and their ties with the Island over generations.
Well The Island starts off EXACTLY the same as The Return, a twenty something woman in a bad relationship goes to the country of her mothers birth in order to find out more about her family history and to unearth the reasons why her mother is secretive about her past. In The Return it was Spain and in The Island its Crete.
The author has a wonderful story to work with here and the story races along at breakneck speed throughout, sometimes at the expense of character development. The characters themselves are not fully rounded and I found many of them to be two dimensional. One of the daughters in the main family Anna for example is portrayed as selfish and wild and she therefore spends all of the book doing selfish and wild things without any explanation of her motivations and other sides to her character are not shown. Its not long before this novel started reading like a bad soap opera, a very predictable badly written soap opera.
So why did I keep reading? Well its a very easy lazy read for starters and although I feel as though the impact of Leprosy on the community was not fully explored, there was a lot of describtion of the disease and of the community on Spinalonga. It was the subject matter overall which kept me reading rather than the characters or the storyline.
I noticed that Under Their Skin by Dinah Lee Kung also deals with the theme of Leprosy and was published in the same year as The Island. I'm asuming it got overshadowed somewhat by The Island. I have added this one to my wish list but has anyone else read it?
Would I recommend it? If your after an easy love story based with some interesting history then yes, but dont expect anything of substance.
Posted by Jess