“We would all still love each other, but what it meant was: if there was a burning fire, if two sisters were stuck in the inferno and they were screaming a name, the only right thing would be to pick the woe the iron dictated to save. It is important to ignore any contrary instincts of your traitor heart”
The publisher describes this book as:
Imagine a world very close to our own: where women are not safe in their bodies, where desperate measures are required to raise a daughter. This is the story of Grace, Lia and Sky, kept apart from the world for their own good and taught the terrible things that every woman must learn about love. And it is the story of the men who come to find them – three strangers washed up by the sea, their gazes hungry and insistent, trailing desire and destruction in their wake.
This was a fascinating read.
As the publisher description above says it is the story of three sisters: Grace, the oldest sister; Lia the middle sister and Sky, the youngest sister. As this book begins you are immediately drawn into a loving family unit who have banded together on an island to survive in an apparently dystopian society where men are a toxicity that needs to be avoided. We learn that in the past women have come to the island to seek solace and cleansing and that the sisters themselves are regularly enduring trial and rituals to test their love and survival instincts. I should say this is quite a brutal book in places.
When their father King disappears on a trip to the mainland – soon presumed dead, the children are both stripped of their one male role model, and freed from the associated male oppression – It is clearly no accident that the father in the book is called king and he has three daughters whose love for him is constantly tested a-la King Lear.
When, not long after, three men wash ashore, the delicate balance in their sisters’ relationship equilibrium is tilted, and you know things are not going to end well.
The Handmaids Tail and Lord of the flies have been mentioned in reviews of this book and it is not hard to see why. It is a wonderfully disorientating novel. Is the world as we first see it? Or are things not entirely what they seem and are we, and the girls, being lead down a garden path. Are our initial perceptions of the story ill aligned to the actual reality?
The skill of the book, and of Mackintosh’s writing, is that this question is never quite answered – all scenarios are open and equally plausible as the story unfolds, and it’s possible that no two readers will reach the same conclusion.
It is a tough and emotionally draining read but one that lingers long after the final page has been read.
“We have never been permitted to cry because it makes our energies suffocating. Crying lays you low and vulnerable, racks your body. If water is the cure for what ails us, the water that comes from our own faces and hearts is the wrong sort. It has absorbed our pain and is dangerous to let loose.”