I am going to be honest from the beginning … I’ve found this review so very hard to write as I absolutely loved On the Island. I was so caught up in the story that I read it in under 24 hours, pushing everything else aside so I could carry on reading.
We begin with Anna narrating in June 2001. She meets TJ at the airport. It’s a long and drawn out journey and at Malé International Airport, Maldives, they find out they haven’t been booked on to the seaplane that will take them to their final destination. However, there has been a cancellation and they find themselves the only passengers with pilot Mick. Mick very quickly becomes unwell and they find themselves crashing into the sea.
TJ takes over the narration (throughout the story, the narration alternates with Anna and TJ in the first person). Anna is unconscious and he slides his hand through her life jacket straps to keep her buoyant. Unable to do anything but let the current take them, they’re carried to a lagoon. He drags Anna along the sand before losing consciousness himself.
In the early days of their isolation on the uninhabited island, we read about how they survive each day. As the story progresses we move on much faster … the plot moves at a perfect pace (and builds in intensity). For quite a while all their energy is spent on just surviving but as it gets a little easier, Anna and TJ start getting to know each other. At one point TJ relates a poignant memory in relation to the time he was having chemotherapy and this pulled on my heart-strings.
The attraction between them builds and after TJ’s 18th birthday, this attraction opens up a moral dilemma for Anna. When the intimacy develops, the sexual scenes are beautifully portrayed.
There are plenty of crises on the island, which made me hold my breath. At times the tension is almost unbearable. Such a page turner! There were situations that brought tears but also times of laughter. The resolution of the scene with the shark had me cheering!
I identified with both lead characters, which I think shows how good the writing is. There are no flowery descriptions, the chapters are short as are some of the sentences (great for building tension).
There is much more to the plot after the three years spent on the island. I won’t spoil it by telling you how, where or why or even what comes afterwards. I will say that this part of the story had me just as hooked, engaging all my emotions. The epilogue is exactly what I needed for a satisfactory conclusion.
On the Island is a story that I will be thinking about for quite some time and I have no hesitation in recommending it.
I am fortunate enough to have two copies of On the Island. I was sent a copy from the Real Readers programme and a copy from the publisher.