"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

21 June 2007

Islands

I have been reading my poor allergy-prone eyes into blindness every evening this summer, but it's been well worth it. This week one of the books I've read is Anne Rivers Siddons' Islands. This was my first read of Siddons' work, and I will definitely be looking for more, hoping not to be disappointed. (Note to self: put this name near the top of the list for the next used bookstore visit.)

Islands is literary fiction, so it's slow-moving and character-oriented, both of which traits I love. It follows the lives of a group of childhood friends from Charleston who have remained close, buying a beach house together where they and their families spend much time on weekends and in the summers. Of course there are tensions and conflicts and, as they are getting older, deaths. The novel is really about the ways we react to disappointment, tragedy, and betrayal, and does a good job of showing these quite realistically, ending on a note of hopefulness that is rare for the modern novel of this type.

Siddons is a good writer, too. I wouldn't put her in the top tier, but she brings Charleston to life quite well and especially the beach scenes, which are not cliche but help one to see, hear, taste, and feel the setting. She also sets the story up extremely well with the prologue, a dream of the main character. Anything more would be a spoiler.

I think what I like most is how true to life the characters seem. I didn't feel at any particular point that anyone was behaving out of character, and even her rather off-the-wall folk rang mostly true. This tells me Siddons is a good observer of human nature and willing to tell it as truly as she can, rather than trying to propagandize us into some ideological agenda.

2 comments:

St. Kevin & the Blackbird said...

Beth: Your comments about how this writer works with characters remind me of Margaret Laurence. Ever heard of her?
-R

alaiyo said...

No -- but I'll check her out now!

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