Today, we have a special treat for you – a book review of one of the novels in our collection – Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane!
You definitely don’t want to go to Shutter Island for rest and relaxation. You may know the recent movie called Shutter Island – directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley. Fans of the movie may not be as familiar with the book by author Dennis Lehane. We have the book at our Fennell location and here is our review.
I haven’t seen the movie so I can’t tell you how closely the movie version of Shutter Island follows the plot of the book, but the book is very cinematic – lots of imagery. It is no surprise to me that it was made into a movie. Now, I have to say that this is a very difficult review to write as part of what I have to say can only be said if I do some spoiling. So this post comes in 2 parts, I’ll give you fair warning when I get to the spoiling part.
First, the plot. US Marshall Teddy Daniels and his brand new partner, Chuck Aule, have to investigate the disappearance of a patient/prisoner from the Ashecliffe Hospital – a facility that holds the criminally insane. Not too scary so far right? Well, before you get too comfortable, know that the hospital is located on an island and the only people on the island are the doctors, nurses, other hospital staff and the “patients”. The island is sea torn and weathered – a remote and desolate place. Oh, a big storm is coming that may knock out communications and affect the ferry schedule. Teddy and Chuck have lots of questions and no one seems to be able to answer them. The reader is sucked right in to their enquiry, right from the start. The woman who disappeared is a multiple murderess and she has seemingly vanished without a trace in a way that is pretty much impossible. More and more questions for us and Teddy and Chuck arise. Are the doctors really conducting dangerous psychological experiments and surgery on the “patients”? Can Teddy really trust his new partner Chuck? Is Teddy really looking for the missing patient or someone or something else? Who is Teddy’s real boss? Suffice it to say that all the questions and quite a few that readers don’t even know they have are answered by the end of the novel.
Next, what’s good and what’s bad? Let’s look at the good first. Well, Lehane is a good writer, no doubt there. His characters are believable – Teddy is a complicated soul and you’re on his side right from the start. Chuck is funny and clever. The two balance each other well and even though their partnership is brand new, you believe that they’ll be great partners. (At least you do until doubts about Chuck start to arise.) The dialogue is snappy and realistic – kind of Stephen King-like; King is a great dialogue writer. The time period is the 1950’s and it felt authentic to me. There’s a bit of a “detective noir” thing happening that works really well. All in all, the book is a well paced thriller, this is not a book you’d read slowly. If you like thrilling, fast-paced mysteries, I have no doubt you’ll like this book. I recommend it on this level.
Now the bad – and my spoiler warning. The spoiling begins here. I will do my best not to totally spoil, but even knowing what follows will change the way you enjoy the book. So, read no further if you want to enjoy the twists and turns of the plot the way the author intended you to enjoy them. In some ways it is fun to be strung along and find out that you’ve been fooled by author, it can be cleverly done and for the most part, Lehane has perpetrated a pretty clever sting. Did I get the name anagrams? No, I didn’t but once they’re revealed, they seemed kind of lame and obvious to me. I have to admit that I was disappointed that there weren’t dastardly government experiments going on – perhaps that says more about me than the author or the book. In the end, it just felt like a let down. I really question the whole “sting” approach. I didn’t believe that psychiatrists would go to such lengths to treat a patient. At the end, I said to myself, “Really? They would do that?” I think my lack of belief stems from the fact that I wasn’t clued in from the beginning. If I’d somehow understood more about psychiatry in the fifties and how it was on the cusp of major changes in treatment theory and practice, I would have been able to go along with real story. I may well be in the minority here, I’ve heard raves about the movie and if it stuck to the plot of the book, then lots of others were more than satisfied by the “real” story.
I still recommend the book, in fact I’d love to hear from you whether you liked the book or not, please chime in.