Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Island (Elin Hilderbrand, 2010)

The Heroine: Two generations of women who have arrived on Tuckernuck Island to spend a month living with only the bare necessities in their family's ancestral beach house, to reflect on the past and future and lean on each other for support. After the catastrophic end to Chess Cousin's engagement to a man everyone thought was perfect, she is sent spiralling into a deep depression. Her mother Birdie, recently divorced and falling in love for a second time, and her aunt India, running away from confronting feelings for her female art student, rally around her and bring her to Tuckernuck for a chance to recover. Joining them is Tate, Chess's younger sister, who is still struggling with feelings of inadequacy in regards to her beautiful, talented and now fallen older sister. Over the course of a month filled with confessions, secrets, fighting and love, all four women will find their lives changed forever.

The Highs: The Island is an ensemble novel narrated by all four women, featuring a great variety of unique characters. Chess, the prized daughter who has toppled from her pedestal, struggles with the disastrous consequences of betraying her own feelings in order to fit the mold. Tate, her sister, has finally caught the eye of the man she's loved for ten years, but is unable to be happy in her sister's shadow. Birdie, their mother who has devoted her life to her children, is ready to become the woman she missed out on being since her recent divorce. And India, still reeling from the suicide of her famous sculptor husband, is trying to come to terms with her new feelings toward a student at the art school she teaches at. While all four women have their own problems to struggle with, I really enjoyed the heartfelt way they came together, supporting each other like family should. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Chess and Tate; sisters fascinate me, probably because I never had one of my own.

The romance between Tate and Barrett Lee, her childhood crush who has finally noticed her, was sweet, touching and at times, mildly suspenseful. I was really rooting for them to find a way to work out their issues. I really enjoyed the scenes between Tate and Barrett; Tuckernuck Island provides some really romantic scenery, especially for anyone who fantasizes about being ravished on the beach at twilight!

Elin Hilderbrand is a very masterful story-teller. She has a great sense of pacing and crafts beautifully written characters and scene descriptions. I was really impressed by her ability to provide each of the four women with a unique voice and outlook!

The Lows: The Island was a very difficult book to read. While the relationships between the women are interesting, its hard to get sucked into a book where nothing much happens. There is no real action, not much suspense and no dynamic plot twists. Not a lot surprised me about the plot; I feel like I knew how the story would end before I was even halfway through.

I would say loathe is a strong word, but I really have no pity or sympathy for Chess, one of the main characters. She spends most of the book sulking and lurking in the background, depressed over the death of her ex-fiance and pouting over her feelings for his brother, Nick. It is hard for me to feel sorry for a woman who could have prevented most of her problems by simply being honest. Another big issue for me was the romance between Chess and Nick. They pronounce themselves in love after exchanging not much more than a few words, and other than a sexual attraction, not much more is said about Nick to provide justification for why Chess's feelings were so strong for him.

The epilogue also really ticked me off. While its all nice and good that Tate, Birdie and India find resolution with their problems, Chess's relationship with Nick is a loose string just dangling uselessly in the last couple paragraphs. After going through an emotional journey with a character, I typically like to know what actually happened to them at the end!

Final Thoughts: The Island is very well-written and beautiful at points, but it ultimately left me unsatisfied.

Rating: The Island earns five bluefish out of ten. 

Buy 'The Island' on The Book Depository here
Connect with author Elin Hilderbrand here
Photo from here


  1. Pretty cover! I love stories where you get the perspectives of more than 1 character. I will have to look for this at the library.

  2. Yeah, the multiple perspectives was something I actually really enjoyed in this book. It was interesting to hear all the character's thoughts on each other especially!


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