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Offshore Paperback – 16 Apr 2017
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• The suspense and thriller element to the story was very well designed. It hooked me in and I did want to know what happened to the characters next. The situation with Samuel and Aly was an undertone throughout the second half of the book that kept me interested.
• I liked the premise and setting of the story. It is relevant to today’s world and current political issues that makes it very much a book of our time. It almost borders on dystopia and what could happen if our immigration and refugee laws continue on the path they seem to be heading down.
What wasn’t good?
• For me, the writing style was so difficult to engage with. The book needs a serious edit and the overuse of the comma and semicolon makes the language drag on and I found it difficult to keep track of what was going on and who was speaking. The words seem to have fallen onto the page and the writing structure is quite untidy and hard to follow.
• There was too much crammed into one story. The book splits into a completely different story halfway through making me think it would have worked better as a duology with book one taking place in Aldernay and book 2 taking place afterwards. Both ideas are exceptionally good; the refugee crisis and the split personality. But for me, they just didn’t need to be together. The ideas could have even functioned as 2 different books with 2 different sets of characters.
• I didn’t get to know the characters enough to engage with them. To me, Kate and Abra’s love story came from nowhere. They didn’t spend enough time together to suddenly be in love and risk their lives for each other. I didn’t get that sense of undying love from them and so their actions didn’t mesh with their feelings.
• There were a lot of plot lines that were left unaddressed and some parts of the story that weren’t resolved. The incidents in Kate’s past were thrown in and not explored as was the abuse in Abra’s past. This further strengthens for me the need for more detail and the book to be filled out and split into 2 parts.
Would you recommend this book?
I would. The ideas for the storyline are unique and relevant which for me, made it a story I wanted to finish. Be prepared for a sense of disappointment towards the end though as some things are left unresolved.
Australian writers often address themes of xenophobia but generally don’t write about real detention centres. It may be that publishers are keen to sidestep what is only the most contentious topic of the last twenty years, or it may be that writers feel they don’t know enough about the camps to write about them confidently (journalists are barred from Manus and Nauru). I found it interesting to see this author tackle the subject head-on. The premise of a UK offshore centre was unfortunately only too credible, yet it cleverly gave the author space to create a fictional narrative.
Concept aside however, I found the most admirable quality of this book was the prose. The writing is tight, with appropriate cultural references, no wasted sentences and lots of character detail. I found the characters very well defined, even considering the difficult territory explored in the second half of the book (no spoilers here). I especially found the female lead very believable. She is flawed, sexually impulsive, and somewhat unbalanced emotionally. The relationship between her and Abra felt quite fresh and different (this isn’t a “yawn” romance at all).
The plot is quite original, and generally smooth and convincing. I did however wonder why Kate was allowed so much freedom at the camp. Was she a volunteer or paid employee? It was all a bit vague. Also, Samuel seemed the type to simply kill a difficult detainee rather than set them free as he does in the middle of the book. I would have preferred a little more description about the detention centre and I thought the second half of the book was probably the strongest.
I have to say I enjoyed this book a great deal. Once I was a few pages in I wanted to keep reading and I found the prose elegant and a pleasure to read. Highly recommended.
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