Wednesday, October 20, 2010

REVIEW: 1049 Club by Kim Pritekel

Of all the books I've reviewed for Elisa, over at The Rainbow Awards, this one has to be my favourite. Whie She's My Dad certainly had a more personal and immediate impact for me, 1049 Club was certainly the best overall piece of fiction out of all the books I've read (so far - I still have 1 to go).
Going into the book, as we first met the characters on the plane, I was very much afraid we were going to be stuck flat, stereotypical, predictable stock characters. It seemed like Kim was stocking the cast for a gender/sexuality conflict (after all, where better to arrange that conflict than on a deserted island), but I'm delighted to say nothing could be further from the truth. The survivors on the island, and even their loved ones back home, are fully realised, fully developed characters with personalities and emotions. The island 6 mature wonderfully throughout their ordeal, and their development into a kind of family is entirely natural. The creation of a friendship between Dean (the uppity gay guy) and Michael (the down-to-earth homophobic guy) is so subtle, you've already accepted it before you realise the antagonism is gone. As for the budding romance between Rachel and Denna . . . wow, that was so sweet, so tender, and romantic. It wasn't at all forced, and never pushed the boundaries of disbelief. Trying really hard to avoid any spoilers hers, but what really sold me on this one is the 100 pages or so following what you would expect to be the end.

As for the island, there's not really much you can do with a few square miles of sand and trees that hasn't been done before, but Kim gives us enough detail to ground us in the story, without reaching for some over-the-top sense of isolation and disaster. With the exception of a few obligatory fishing expeditions and a truly harrowing hurricane, the setting is allowed to be just that - a setting, and not a driving force in the plot or a personification of some natural force. Back home, the settings are equally well handled, with family, loved ones, and the eventual rescue crew scattered around the world. The way in which Kim has her characters adapt, making innovative uses of the few pieces of luggage that wash up on shore, is nothing short of wondrous. If you don't believe me, just wait until you see what they do with the big rubber dildo. :)

My only quibble with the story (and it's a small one) is the frequent shifting of perspectives from one character to another. Often, you find yourself halfway through a paragraph before you realise the perspective has changed, forcing you to backtrack and confirm where the change happened. This may very well be a limitation of the form - perhaps the paperback is better formatted than the ebook - but I didn't find the transitions clear. That aside, this is a wonderfully well-written book. The plane crash is as tense and exciting as any Tom Clancy thiller; the sense of despair as each character washes up on the island alone is as powerful as Tom Hanks in Castaway; and, as I mentioned earlier, the friendships and the romance are handled so beautifully, I cried at least half a dozen times throughout the book.
Absolutely recommended!

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