If you’re looking for a feel-good beach read and stumble across Islands because of its summery title, you might be disappointed.
Australian author Peggy Frew’s third novel, Islands, is a complex and moving novel about family, love and loss.
Set in the mid 1980s, in a childhood like the one I remember of hot summers by the beach, it explores the sometimes brittle, sometimes affectionate relationships between siblings that is familiar to many families.
However, amid what might have been an idyllic childhood is the beginning of the story behind the mysterious disappearance of Junie’s sister, Anna, a decade later.
The girls’ lives had been rocked by the separation of their parents, setting the girls on different trajectories as their parents also begin their new lives.
Frew’s language is beautiful and perfectly captures the tumultuous teen years, exacerbated by family breakdown. But she isn’t afraid to let the reader draw their own conclusions, whether about the cause of Anna’s disappearance or the culpability of each parent in the aftermath of the breakdown of their marriage.
I started reading Islands enjoying the nostalgia of summers past in a coastal area that I am familiar with, but was then swept away with the complex and fascinating family dynamic that unfolded, and the heavy sense of sorrow and regret.
I’d love to read more books by Frew as I really admired her use of language and exploration of relationships that are complex and difficult to define.
Readability score: 8/10