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The style of writing in Islands is unusual and charming. The story begins with a repetitive few lines, being built up to create a picture. Gradually the reader sees the young girl, the house on the hill and the happy family which then began to fall apart. The style of writing means that the reader has to work to piece together the chunks of story. Sometimes the chunk is in the present, sometimes in the past. Each block of story gives us more of an idea as to why a person would behave that way.

We are presented with characters who all meld together as a happy family, until one of them cannot stay any longer. This character seems heartless, but later we learn how she spent her childhood, and why she feels the way she does. The reactions to this family breakup are different for each family member. The story is told from different points of view, and the distress and dismay felt by all is almost overwhelming.

Each character is unravelled as they move from childhood to adolescence. Then we see how they emerge from their parenting disaster to form their own relationships and parenting styles. It is a rather gloomy prospect to contemplate, but the writing style of the author challenges the reader to understand the consequences of the mother’s family who ignore her most of the time. There is one section of the story where an older person has a stroke. The reader is confronted by words which are made up, but you quickly realise what is happening and share the frustration of the character.

The setting for some of this story is an Island of the coast of Melbourne. Some of the descriptive passages which tell of tunnels of bush leading down to the beach are vibrant and memorable, as “the ti-tree crouched, humpbacked, on the dunes”. A family disintegration is not a comfortable plot for a story, but the past and the future looks at those same people reveal how things may be different in the future.

Author Peggy Frew
Publisher Allen and Unwin
ISBN 9781760528744
Distributor Allen and Unwin
Released March 2019