A five star review for ‘Islands’
Islands was a revelation. For a historical fiction buff this novel ticks off so many boxes it would be difficult to list them all. Firstly, it ranks off the scale on authenticity—in the dialog, in seafaring details, on character development and motivations consistent with the time period—and builds its sensuality with an exquisite slow burn. Thomas Carton is straight, his shipmate Peter Lightfoot is gay and anathema, even to himself.
The initial, tentative steps revolve around survival after their ship wrecks. Accommodation, hesitancy, wariness about each other’s motives gradually morphs into trust and, with that, friendship follows—a friendship tinged with lust and longing for the one, yet for the other it leads to questions and reassessments of a moral compass shaped by a society unforgiving of transgressions. When a slave woman joins their encampment, it adds a startling new dynamic to their relationship and draws each man into the other’s orbit in ways that both exhilarate and disturb.
Islands is also replete with philosophical musings one seldom finds in fiction these days, mini-treatises on mores and norms that help drive the plot and the characters, adding a depth and richness to the storytelling that had me enthralled. This type of storytelling is refreshingly old-school, the writing intelligent, the characters memorable and their trials and tribulations often gut-wrenching.
This is a highly recommended read for lovers of literary and historical fiction.