Friday, July 10, 2009

Dennis Lehane: Shutter Island

It may surprise you to know that it was actually my husband who borrowed this from the library - I can't remember why, maybe because he saw the film trailers? or maybe it was just recommended to him by an accquaintance? No matter. He read it and quite liked it, but he complained of there being a twist that he saw coming a mile off. So I read it too, and I did not see the twist coming. More fool me, perhaps, it's not a strikingly unusual nor original sort of twist, but I was quite prepared to take the story at face value. The twist therefore came as a bit of a surprise to me, and I found myself reluctant actually to accept it. More so since something is said in the prologue that makes it possibly that the twist is not true. (I'm being purposefully oblique here because I really wouldn't want to spoil the read for anyone…) So I liked this quite a bit. Lehane is a good writer, and he made a refreshing break from The Unconsoled (ha!) which I was "reading" at the time. I tend to pass by the Lehanes at the library, for no good reason at all finding myself going "nah" and choosing something else. Perhaps I should make it my objective to read them this summer. I have read Mystic River too, and liked it. His books are generally placed in a crime or thriller genre, but he is skilled enough to give them something more, really literary qualities. In fact I was thinking of this after finishing the book and looking again at the cover, which is black and disturbing with the title in a jagged script and Lehane's name overshadowing it all - had the cover been a plain beige with a plain title, and had the print of the whole novel been smaller, thus making the volume slimmer - well then it would be considered a different type of book altogether.

Story: on the isolated Shutter Island stands an asylum for the criminally insane. Two federal marshals arrive to conduct an investigation into the disappearance of one of the prisoners, a woman convicted of murdering her children. Gradually they start to see that all is not what it seems, and that something else is going on on the island. There, that could be a blurb that, but it really doesn't do the book justice. Nor can it if I don't want to risk spoiling it.

Anyway, I've already borrowed Coronado by same author, so I'll be back with opinions.

Edited 11th July:

Right, here's an opinion I forgot, that reading Coronado reminded me of: one of the things I liked best about Shutter Island is how wonderful Lehane is at describing men's emotions. He really goes all out and allows men to love, totally and overwhelmingly, and then despair utterly and bitterly when they've lost their love. It's not that often that I see that in a book (possibly I read the wrong kind of books, you say). His descriptions of emotions don't feel trite, pretentious or made up, ever. He also allows his characters to admit to their feelings. Hm, what I want to say seldom comes out when I sit down at the keyboard, but I'm trying to convey an idea that writing like that helps liberate men from a stereotype where you either don't connect with your emotions at all or distance yourself from them with a certain debonair cynicism. Do you see what I mean?

No comments: