Review: The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor (Faber)

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The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor

Published on 22 January 2009 by Faber

What would happen if there was a great flood? Would you be lucky enough to hear a message from God and have enough time to build an Ark before the rains came? Well that’s what seems to happen to Pa and his children Finn, Alice and Daisy in The Island at the End of the World.

But soon the reader questions the reality of that situation. Pa isn’t as enlightened or as idilic a father as he first appears. He’s hiding something. Something in the Afterwoods. He makes and drinks a lot of wine. His temper isn’t tempered and his anger causes redness around his vision when it flares. And most importantly he’s scared of contamination.

And it’s this contamination that’s the centre of The Island at the End of the World. Though the seeds are sawn early on it’s firmed up with the arrival of a young man called Will.
The viewpoint switches from Finn’s, whose voice is written like it sounds, making it a challenging read. His child-like view of what appears to be happening plays off Pa’s more revelatory information. These are interspersed with those of Alice who sees that their life isn’t as idyllic or as simple as Pa would like.

This story centres around a father trying to do the right thing by his children. The trouble is that Pa isn’t a nice or sympathetic character. His children get more of my sympathy especially Alice being the oldest and being able to remember things before the flood.

Not everything works however – part does come from my problems with Pa. It’s hard to read a story with a dominating unsympathetic main character. My other problem comes from the way in which Taylor chooses to erode the Island. It isn’t quite believable even with the fable-like quality to the storytelling. Taylor allows too much reality to creep making some of The Island at the End of the World implausible.

The redeeming qualities though are the characters of Alice and Finn and their voices and view points. And it’s worth reading for quality of writing and the exploration of the idea of contamination even in Paradise.

This is definitely an important read for parents who feel that they want to bring up their children in away from modern life. And it might be useful for  children everywhere to see that being a parent ain’t easy.

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