Reviewer: Sheila Grant

Publisher: Salt Publishing   15th November 2021

ISBN:  978-1784632212    PB

A rather unusual book that opens in a deceptively light note when a group of strangers gather for the ferry to a remote little island to participate in a two week retreat where they will have the peace to concentrate on their artistic skills.

Since she was a child and glimpsed the tiny island of Lieloh, Sandra has longed to visit this place with its link to a once famous film actress. She is delighted at this opportunity to land on the isle and also devote time to improving her painting. Sadly the joy does not last long after greeting her fellow passengers who respond with coldness. Resembling children at a holiday camp the others appear to bond quickly leaving Sandra as the odd one out. The reason is not clear but her forced loneliness leaves her roaming the island finding secret spots in which to paint, with little success.
An unusual central character, Sandra’s lack of confidence highlights her vulnerability and often her reaction to the others tends to be childish, alienating her fellow artists further with their caustic comments about her. The individuality of the other members of the party is obscure and they feature more as a group in the novel.
The chapters are short and punchy but there is an underlying sinister element to the story giving the sensation that something extremely unpleasant is likely to occur.
Then a chapter introduces Carol, a writer, heading off alone to yet another retreat to finally complete the writing of her novel.  Is there a connection?
Immediately intriguing, this beautifully written novel hums with slowly building tension and despite the lack of action there is always the feeling that something cataclysmic is about to happen. It is similar to a mystic sort of ghost story with this constant hint of tragedy ahead.
The finale is sudden and left open, giving me the impression that the reader must come to their own conclusion.
Totally different style of book but one I really enjoyed.