Workaholic TV news producer Nina Scaife is determined to fight for her daughter, Laurie, after her partner Rob walks out on her. She takes Laurie to visit Rob’s parents on the beautiful but remote Hope Island, to prove to her that they are still a family. But Rob’s parents are wary of Nina, and the islanders are acting strangely. And as Nina struggles to reconnect with Laurie, the silent island children begin to lure her daughter away.
Meanwhile, Nina tries to resist the scoop as she is drawn to a local artists’ commune, the recently unearthed archaeological site on their land, and the dead body on the beach…
Firstly, thank you to Titan books and Negalley for a review copy of Hope Island, I went into this off the back of Snakeskins, Tim Major’s previous released through Titan which I loved. Whilst Hope Island does have some similar themes, it is a very different kind of tale.
For me, the blurb belies the story a little and whilst indeed all the happenings mentioned are, well happening, this is very much an Introspective piece for our protagonist Nina for the most part. As a reader we are with her throughout and a lot of the story is her inner monologue as she struggles to come to terms with the breakdown of her relationship, her desire to reconnect with her daughter all whilst being on an island reminiscent of The Wicker Man. I have to say that Nina is a character that I deeply connected with, having myself had to return to work full time whilst my partner took the primary childcare role, I felt that I understood her and was able to empathise with her feelings of inadequacy and being out of her depth, she is written in a sensitive way and clearly either a lot of time was spent on research or the author is remarkably astute in this area. On an Island sceptical of outsiders I enjoyed her relationship with Marie the most, it felt very honest and gave a much needed outlet away from Nina’s mind and a greater understanding of her situation when she actually voiced it to another. I felt that the reactions and temperament of Marie’s baby, Niall, were very well played in the sense of the bigger picture.
The book is not all about a woman in crisis though, it is clear from the opening page that Hope Island, for all it’s idyllic beauty, is an island with a secret. It has a very sinister and almost stifling feel, its inhabitants are closed and eerily silent, fertile ground for a journalist who just can’t leave the job behind. The artists commune feels out of place on the island and it’s like it’s tolerated rather than embraced as it is the cause of bringing yet further strangers to the island. They are an affable bunch though and I liked the eclectic mix of characters. The silence of the children gets you in the gut, their presence is oppressive whenever they appear and I was constantly holding my breath at those times. The culmination comes quickly, the reveals were sudden and devastating and the story felt like it took an about turn and indeed the writing style felt very different as the tale took more of an existential feel. Honestly I felt that the end was a little bit rushed and it all became a little muddled in my mind. When the attention was on Laurie the story had huge pace and felt like a thriller, however when the attention flipped back to Nina I started to feel less and less immersed in the story. It is a clever ending though and the islands secrets are incredibly imaginative.
Hope Island is a wonderful slow burn story that will catch you out when you least expect it and a great follow up to Snakeskins.
Hope Island is currently available to pre-order and is released on 8th June through Titan Books