Book Review: Elin Hilderbrand – The Island

I have read several Elin Hilderbrand books, including The Castaways which I reviewed here, mainly because I love the island-type setting. All of her novels take place on/around Nantucket Island. As I mentioned in my previous review, I don’t always love her characters. I did dislike these folks a bit less than I’ve disliked others.

I tried to decipher what, exactly, makes her characters unlikeable. I’ve decided they’re too “high society” for me. They own design companies, run art galleries, regularly appear in the society pages of major newspapers, eat grilled swordfish with lime, chili and an avocado sauce (to my meatloaf and mashed potatoes.) They’re just out of my league. And I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way. Problems, emotional issues, and drama seem to increase proportionally with status and culture. I’ll pass thankyouverymuch. Of course, this is why these people are characters in interesting novels and I am not. 🙂

Let’s get to the book. If I had to choose a theme for The Island it would be sisterhood, and the love/hate relationship that binds sisters for life. The characters are:

  • Birdie Cousins – Divorced mother of Chess and Tate, embarking on a new love affair.
  • India Bishop – Birdie’s sister, fully recovered from her husband’s suicide, also considering a new love.
  • Chess Cousins – Birdie’s daughter and India’s niece. Just called off her wedding and is thrown into the depths of depression by circumstances I won’t give away.
  • Tate Cousins – Chess’ sister, Birdie’s daughter, India’s niece. Although she’s very successful in her own right, she has lived much of her life in Chess’ shadow.

These four women return to their childhood summer home on Tuckernuck Island (near Nantucket.) Tuckernuck is privately owned and can be reached only by boat. The cottages are rustic with no hot water, outdoor showers, and electricity only by generators, but the women feel they need this escape from the real world to heal and grow. And that they do. A handful of other interesting characters round out the book:

  • Barrett: the caretaker
  • Hank: Birdie’s potential love interest
  • Lula: India’s student
  • Grant: Birdie’s ex
  • Bill: India’s deceased husband
  • Anita: a bitch

The story is intense and not always happy. The second-generation sisters (Chess and Tate) have major emotional issues to overcome during their 30-day stay on Tuckernuck. Nevertheless it makes for an engaging beach read with a satisfactory ending. I can’t decide whether I’m now longing for a sister, or happy I don’t have one! 🙂 I do know I’m glad I’m not being featured in Sunday’s society pages!


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2 Responses to Book Review: Elin Hilderbrand – The Island

  1. A.M.B. says:

    Your description of these “high society” folks reminds me of a snooty letter my residential college Master sent to students in which he described “summering in Nantucket” in his vacation home. I recognize that I come from a privileged background, but as a public school kid with working parents, I just didn’t identify with his “high society” experiences. I remember getting quite a good laugh out of how out of touch he was.

  2. Dead giveaway once he turned the noun into a verb. Seems like a high-society habit!

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