The Island at the End of the World - Review

The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor
Publication date: January 22,2009
ISBN 10/13: 0571240518 / 9780571240517

Category: Adult Dystopia
Format: Paperback (UK)
Keywords: Dystopia, Belief, Trust, Truth, Memory, Love, Sin, Rebirth

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How I found out about this book: I don't remember. Ironically, this book is written by an amnesiac (or rather, Sam Taylor had a six-month period of his life that he remembers hardly at all, for reasons unknown).

Quickie: Deeply disturbing and beautiful. Not for those easily distracted by coarse language and perversity.

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My review:

The book explores memory, belief, trust, and idealism with a narrative flipping back and forth between Pa, his son Finn, and later on his daughter Alice. Along with Daisy, the baby of the family, the family has been deposited on The Island following The Great Flood. All believe the rest of humanity to have perished, except Alice, who is about 18 and starting to doubt their father's stories of The World Before.

I really thought this was a young adult book, and in a way it is, but I feel like a lot of mainstream readers, particularly parents and teachers, will want to steer clear of this one. There's lots of cursing and references to sex, including incest (no, it's not Pa, let's give the poor guy some credit) and a modicum of violence.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy this book. I was flipping back and forth between a 3- and a 4-star rating on this. Taylor's writing is beautiful and sparse, and his mode of storytelling puts you right in the character's head. Finn's parts are really hard to read at first: he is only about 8 and hasn't had proper school, so everything is spelled the way it sounds. Pa's are a little more Biblical in tone, he having turned to God in order to save his family from the flood. Alice's are poetic, since her favorite book of the three that they have on the island is the complete works of William Shakespeare. (The other two books are The Tales i.e. fairytales, and The Bible.)

The story itself is intriguing, and the writing--I can't say much more than beautiful & disturbing, because those are the first two things that pop into my mind every time I think about this book. I wish I knew other people who have read the book so we could discuss it and maybe shed a little more light on what it was about. I feel like I've been left hanging, like the story is not complete somehow, like I missed a really big point of interest while busy admiring the scenery.

Who should read this book: Not for young kids, for sure. I'm not sure a teen would get much out of this book either, unless they are very interested in creative writing and storytelling, because that is what Taylor excels at even if his message, if any was intended, falls flat. And I know quite a few people I have following me on will appreciate being told in advance about the vulgarities and incest. (Boy, I am feeling judgmental today. I almost wrote something about how I look down on people who avoid reading books with "dirty words" and unpleasantness, but realized that hey, I avoid things I don't think I'll enjoy reading too--mostly automobile repair manuals and sports-related things. It's a free country, read what you like.)

The Island at the End of the World is Sam Taylor's 3rd novel.
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What do you think? Is this something you would read? If you've already read it, put in your two cents... (no spoilers, please!)