The Island

Sadly I don’t mean the slightly naff but very fun film of clones and Ewan McGregor being crap and in peril (a genre I have an irrational like for) but the Richard and Judy advocated Victoria Hislop novel.

Which instead of being about medical clones, is about family history, and leprosy.

Yeah. Cheerful.

Now, I’m not someone who can’t hack unhappy stories and situations. 1984 is one of my favorite novels ever. But the problem I had with the Island and kept coming back to it… why the hell combine CHICK LIT AND LEPROSY? The novel had some very interesting parts to it, but then would spoil itself with fluffy love story stuff that you could TELL was only being done in order for something more terrible to happen and make you feel sorry for these characters. It’s not so much tugging the heartstrings at attaching them to a truck and trying to drive away, while screaming ‘LOOK BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE IT IS SAD LOOK LOOK’ at you down a megaphone with a big :( painted on the side.

Okay, it’s not REALLY that bad but I had to stay up till 4am getting it finished for class today, so I’m allowed to be a little melodramatic. (And it’s not as if I’m any nicer to my characters. Just hopefully I’m less fluffy about it.) Just in this book you almost get the sense of ‘if nice, get leprosy’ or generally get screwed over, and it’s hard to get the sympathy or hope for the characters because you know something is going to happen to knock them right back down. It’s almost infuriating with the crushingly NICE Maria, who really must have pissed someone off in a former life because, Christ, things are cruel to her. Though anyone would feel sorry for her when you combine the girl to her sister Anna, who made me want to slap her more than most literary characters are able to.

Oh, also, she wants you to know Lepers are people too and lots of people are needlessly bigoted and it doesn’t spread as much as people think. This is very true, and well worth saying but there’s only so many times it needs to come up. Not in a sense of the plot using it, that’s fine and dandy. I mean in the sense of the characters repeating it at each other continually. WE GET THE IDEA. It’s incredibly patronising. Even if we take into account this is ‘beach reading’, even less astute readers are going to get the moral without having it drilled in so much.

Whining aside, there’s some interesting stuff to the book, and some moments that did really grab me and engage me. it’s good to actually look at the subject, but the way it was handled, for a lot of the novel, just wasn’t really for me. ‘At last: A beach novel with a heart!’ the cover quote says. And that is what this is. It’ll make you sad, but not too much. It’ll make you happy, but not too much. It’ll make you think, but not too much. And so I think the thing I found most frustrating is that while it had the seeds of something quite good, it had the potential to be just that much more.

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