Sunday 8 August 2021

An Island by Karen Jennings

Longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize

About the Author

Karen Jennings was born in Cape Town in 1982. She holds Master’s degrees in both English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town, and a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

About the book 

Samuel has lived alone for a long time; one morning he finds the sea has brought someone to offer companionship and to threaten his solitude…

A young refugee washes up unconscious on the beach of a small island inhabited by no one but Samuel, an old lighthouse keeper. Unsettled, Samuel is soon swept up in memories of his former life on the mainland: a life that saw his country suffer under colonisers, then fight for independence, only to fall under the rule of a cruel dictator; and he recalls his own part in its history. 

In this new man’s presence he begins to consider, as he did in his youth, what is meant by land and to whom it should belong. To what lengths will a person go in order to ensure that what is theirs will not be taken from them? - A novel about guilt and fear, friendship and rejection; about the meaning of home.


It's a solitary endeavour, both from a premise and literary perspective. A short powerful read that sets the scene without any inner or outer architecture. It's just Samuel, the island and sometimes the man who intrudes upon the two.

As the reader gets to know the man, they also travel with him through time. From his traumatic childhood fleeing the violence of his rural area, to the poverty that later defines and changes his family, which leads to the years as a prisoner and the hermit-like existence.

An existence that has created layers of guilt in general, survivor's guilt, grief and a lack of impulse control when it comes to violence. Agoraphobia and a territorial behaviour combined with paranoia and flashbacks - one could say the events that unfold are inevitable.

I can see why it has been longlisted for the Booker. It's an unusual piece that stands out from the crowd. It will be interesting to see where Jennings takes us next.

Buy An Island at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Holland House Books pub date 23 July 2021. Buy at Amazon com. Buy from Holland House Books.

No comments:

Post a Comment