@zioibi I found the novel unsatisfactory on first reading but I don’t want to commit myself to a “judgment” one way or the other till I’ve read it again. It’s true that the early episodes lack specficity about the kind of society it is and the kinds of people who live in it, making it seem more an “allegory” than a story about a particular time and place.
Even as we learn more about Samuel and his history, he remains more of a type than an individual: he’s someone who might well be inclined to favour liberation and opposition to tyranny but equally is disposed to hold on firmly to what is “mine” and to be wary and mistrustful of strangers, particularly refugees.
His strong sense of self-preservation means he easily betrays his comrades — and succeeds in deflecting the suspicions of his fellow-prisoners. I wonder if the motive of the authorities in “turning” him had less to do with getting useful information than in demoralizing Samuel himself and others like him. He thinks he betrayed Meria, the mother of his (now dead) child, but it seems that the police never came for her.
the novel has no faith in the power of people, or political activism, to engender meaningful change.
It’s true that the novel doesn’t express and such faith, but how many novels do? To take an example that’s in my mind because I wrote about it not long ago, The Handmaid’s Tale certainly doesn’t.
On balance, I think I liked the novel more than you did, but I have definite reservations. Thanks for prompting me to think about my response. I’ll be returning to the book eventually and I’ll probably write something more substantial then. I’ll be exploring your site, too.
@artkavanagh I think The Handmaid’s Tale does have some faith in the tenacity of the human spirit, and its epilogue suggests a similar faith in the possibility of change. (I’ve not read The Testaments yet though, so I’m not sure how that plays out!) That’s but one example however, I think there are innumerable novels about the capcity for change – personal and systemic. As well as being not particularly well written, I just found An Island quite dour.
Thanks very much for taking the time to write a considered response, and for reading my thoughts. I, likwise, will keep an eye on your site in the future!