HOPE ISLAND by Tim Major.
Titan Books. p/b. £8.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Nina Scaife, TV producer, English-woman, recently abandoned wife and mother of one, has arrived in Maine and is trying to work out how to break the news to her daughter and her husband’s parents that he has not only left them but has another family, another wife and other children, elsewhere. It never seems the right time to break the news to Laurie. Each time she tries, it seems someone is intent on interrupting her.
Breaking the news and visiting Cat’s Ear Cottage would mark a new start in Nina’s life, now she knows the truth. But on the way to Hope Island the strange occurrences begin. Nina swerves to avoid a child in the road, follows her, but finds nothing. As the week goes on, and as she encounters more of the island’s few residents, the unspoken hangs over Nina and the tension swells. There is a threat in the air and much as Nina tries to avoid it, she is slowly drawn into the island’s terrible secrets.
From the moment it starts, Hope Island carries in its narrative a continuous sense that something awful is about to happen. The tension, between Nina and Laurie, between Nina and the parents, and between Nina and the island dwellers she meets, is palpable in every page yet never tangible enough that the reader can only grasp to understand the sense of disturbance and confusion that Nina carries on her journey.
Major cleverly explores the impact of aural disturbance on body and mind through a sinister thriller that unveils deliciously slowly through to its climax. Though unsettling at times, Hope Island is written in well-controlled prose with a wealth of impactful vocabulary, a sometimes dreamy atmosphere, and sensory description aplenty helping to translate Nina’s experiences to the reader.
What we have here is supernatural speculative fiction set against the backdrop of an island with a secretive and segregated community. We have the local pub and an artists’ colony, a summer school and little else, but it is enough to cleverly convey Nina’s loneliness and struggles as an outsider upon arrival and her slow but sure realisation that something on the island is very wrong and the danger to she and her daughter may be very real.