Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review Wednesday: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Shutter IslandShutter Island by Dennis Lehane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rating: 4.5 stars

Okay, so I can't really write a book review for this book without spoilers, and I've just finished so I might ramble more than usual since I haven't had time to organize thoughts. But these are my first impressions.

First of all, I'd already seen the movie. So I knew the whole ending, etc, as well as what happened in the book. It's been a year or so since I've seen the movie, but it seems like it followed the book pretty closely. Since I already knew Teddy was crazy, it was hard not to get sucked into his paranoia and believe him! It was just about impossible. The only thing I can compare it to is reading Lolita, where the narrator is so charming and convincing you have to keep reminding yourself that you can't believe a word he says. Especially as I got sucked into this one and got all involved in the story, the mystery, the conspiracy... It was really exciting!

As the story went along and Teddy and Chuck were discovering all about the island and the mental institution, I kept thinking about 1984. There was definitely that feeling of 'big brother is watching.' And everything on the island was like a little dystopian world, with the patients and orderlies, and people guiding them, friends who turned out to be enemies, etc. It was all very Orwellian. The island was like a character itself, which I lovelovelove in a book--when the setting is one of the characters it's so real. All the mental patients were great, too.

And the love story--how can I not mention the love story? That's the one thing in the book that I don't think a movie could ever do justice to. Not just because of the graphic sexual stuff, but because Lehane had a way of describing obsessive, consuming love that could not translate to screen. And of course I already knew he'd kill the woman so it was like a...well, a shot in the gut to read about their love. Of course, you wonder how much Teddy embellished the love to justify what he did, out of guilt, etc. But I haven't read a love story with such intensity since maybe Brokeback Mountain, which is hands down my favorite love story of all time.

Lastly, this is a very 'guy book.' That's the only way I can describe it. I used to love that kind of book, crime novels with cops and cases and time's always a-tickin. Something like Presumed Innocent or one of those books I loved so much as a teenager, with that tough-guy voice and the funny sidekick. Something about it is so just plain classic. Add to all that the social commentary about psychosis and its treatment, and you've got one hell of a complex cop story.

Okay. So I just went on a long ramble, but I think I've covered all the main points. This was a very absorbing novel that I would recommend to anyone who likes any of the books I've listed in this review, and to anyone who wants to read a book that's like losing one's mind while reading Lolita with tough-guy cops on Brokeback Mountain while big brother watches.

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