Friday, 1 May 2015

Review of 'On A Small Island' by Morana Blue

On a Small Island by Grant Nicol

Written entirely in the first person from the point of view of one of three sisters, you're drawn immediately into the sudden onset of Ylfa Einarsdóttir's living nightmare as, with frustratingly little help from the Reykjavík detective assigned to her mysterious case, she starts tracking down an obsessed, horribly violent murderer whose sole intent seems to be the destruction of her entire family.

Because you're inside Ylfa's head, you can hear her thinking. Her honesty is startling: 'Most of my friends were sluts. That was a lie; they all were…' Her observation is wry: 'He looked as if his years of seeing the worst possible sides of people had left him enjoying the times now when his misgivings about how rotten they all were inevitably proved to be correct…' - and, as her despair compounds, you feel her self-knowledge sharpen as she knowingly ploughs on toward an inescapable, grimly portentous end: 'In this torment there would be an abyss that I either would see in time and avoid, or be consumed by…'

You feel her heart beginning to ache - and you flinch when it breaks.

It's observantly written as intimate party to the reasoning behind the dangerous investigative steps Ylfa takes - so as her determination and her desperation mount, although you fully understand what she's doing and why she's doing it, you still want to yell 'No! Don't! Don't go there…'

But Ylfa can't help herself. And she takes you with her.

The creepy biblical messages left at every murder scene foreshadow a killer with their own twisted tormented depths - but, though Ylfa can't yet open her eyes to it, it's a torment that Ylfa and the killer actually share - and they're on the same enslaving path to self-destruction.

It's a good - disquieting - read; for the most part because you're entirely locked within Ylfa's world, the minutiae of which - the sandwiches in the car, the cold within her boots, her double cappuccinos - begin to bear auras of frightful magnitude because you can't help but feel that each of the simple things she does, she may never do again.

I don't want to spoil the ending - but it's very poignant. Indeed, 'Whatever you do in this life, be it good or not so good, it will chase you down through the long lonely years of your life,' Ylfa forewarns. 'And it will catch you up.'

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