EXCERPT: The Vinalhaven ferry wove between the brightly coloured lobster pot buoys bobbing up and down among the fishermen’s boats. How Orla would have loved the pretty little harbour of this Maine Island with its wooden houses all different colours and the wharf sitting high atop wooden stilts. Sunlight was dancing on the dappled water, the scent of the sea everywhere, its salty tang on Emer’s lips. How many times had her sister declared her dream of island life? Well here Emer was, living her sister’s dream, running away from her own nightmare.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: When young nurse Emer loses her beloved sister, she is haunted by grief and desperate to escape her memories. Taking a job in Vinalhaven, a rocky outpost in the wild Atlantic, feels like the refuge she so badly needs.
Her patient, Susannah, has lived in isolation for many years, since the tragic death of her sister Kate caused her to withdraw from island life. However, when Emer discovers a bundle of letters in a rainbow quilt in her bedroom and shares the story of her own loss, Susannah opens up. She begins to tell the story of Kate’s brutal and secret past, and her marriage to a man with a heart as cold as the ocean.
But when Emer starts asking locals about Kate, the island air sizzles with hostility. There are people who would rather that Susannah kept quiet, who have no qualms about threatening Emer. But despite the warnings to stay away, Emer is determined to find out what really happened the night Kate died – and the final secret that is keeping Susannah a prisoner to the past.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: The first thing I would like to say about The Island Girls is that the publicity blurb isn’t at all true to the story. Yes, this is about two sets of sisters whose lives are separated by almost sixty years.
1950s: Susannah and Kate are natives of the small island off the coast of Maine. Susannah hates island life and dreams of going to college. Kate thinks of nothing but marrying an island boy and raising her children in her old home.
2011: Emer has lost her sister Orla to cancer, and feeling guilty for having abandoned her sister in her final hours, she runs from her job and her lover to be the palliative carer of an old woman, also dying of cancer, on a remote Maine island.
I had high hopes of this novel for the first two thirds. There was the implied promise of mystery and deeply buried family secrets. An old lady on her death bed, a secret cache of letters, family estrangements – all the ingredients were there. But a story that should have been intriguing was, instead, lackluster and predictable. I lost interest to the point where I put it down for twenty four hours and just walked away from it.
The characters were flat. They never reached out to draw me into the story, which is told by both Susannah and Emer. Susannah narrates her childhood with Kate, and her time at Harvard with her lover, Ava. This is interspersed with Emer’s story of caring for Susannah, of adapting to life on the island, and of battling her own guilt and grief. We also get to read some of the letters from Kate to Susannah, which are of little value.
I was disappointed. I expected more. I didn’t get it.
THE AUTHOR: pseudonym: Evie Blake
Born in London, I moved to Ireland in 1991, shortly afterwards setting up the theatre company Aurora. I have written four stage plays, Northern Landscapes, Black Virgin, Runaway Wife and The Good Sister, and one short film, Blue Void. I have also written extensively on visual art in Ireland, contributing to various journals and artists’ catalogues over the years.
I currently live in Bergen in Norway. In September 2012 Beatrice was published by Juritzen Forlag in Norwegian. My books have also been translated and published in Italy, Germany, Holland, and Hungary.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Island Girls by Noelle Harrison for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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