Reading reflections in the Bookinglass

An expat with a love of fiction

The Island at the End of the World

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One of the best books I have read in a long time but still feel that it doesn’t quite cut it. Who doesn’t love to be whisked away to a almost-deserted idyllic island?…set in the near future, this island inhabited only by a family of four: a pious Dad and his three curious and feisty children Alice, Finn and Daisy. And there are big tantalising mysteries right from the get-go:

  1. How did these people get to this island?
  2. Was there really a flood which wiped out the rest of the human race?
  3. What happened to the mother?

 We see the world through the Father and Finn’s eyes for most of the book then in Part Two it is Alice’s turn. The use of language is very original to set apart the three characters. The father speaks like this:

‘And the Father said to Alice, WHAT IS THIS THAT THOU HAST DONE?’

He is obviously using language which he has learnt from the Bible (according to him one of the three books worth reading along with Shakespeare and Fairy Tales), he refers to himself in the third person which makes him sound self-important and a little bit mad. I find the father’s voice is affected and although the character is indeed dangerously off-his-trolley his sanctimonious huffing and puffing generally sounds ridiculous. Having recently read ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ I have had enough of the constant references to Genesis, temptation and sexual knowledge to last me a couple of years and Kingsolver’s mastery makes this book seem like a poor cousin of the thematic genre.

What I did enjoy about  The Island at the End of the World and what makes it an outstanding read is Finn’s use of language. It took me by surprise that I had to make an effort to understand what he was saying, and some misspellings have a touch of genius. For example, cuddling is pronounced ‘culling’ which inverts the connotations of the word completely. This new pigeon English makes me look at language from a new perspective and shapes this new world as strange and refreshing.

The second thing I like about this book is Snowy, the cat which I think could be seen as the animal version of Jesus. Being murdered within the first couple of chapters, we only ever know about Snowy through Finn’s memory of his beloved pet and companion. The author creates a character void in killing off this animal as well as the unexplained absence of the mother which makes this island seems very empty and unsettling undermining its lush and beautiful appearance. Why is the cat called Snowy? Purity and transience come to mind but also a kind of untouchable-ness, as snow is cold and melts away. Also the book opens in the winter as the spring and summer come, Alice’s sexuality awakens echoing the fertility and heat around her.

There is enough to study in this book to last at least a dissertation….having its fair share of extended metaphors: island, sunflowers,ark,swimming,trees. I highly recommend the read.


Written by bookinglass

December 6, 2009 at 5:08 pm

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