Top positive review
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Island of broken dreams is the key character in this remarkable book by a master storyteller.
on 18 December 2012
San Miguel is a tiny, desolate island off the west coast of America opposite Santa Barbara. It is an inhospitable place as far as humans, trees and plants are concerned though the sheep appear to thrive. Since the 1880s and throughout harsh economic times, the island has provided some sort of a "living" for anyone foolhardy enough to take on the management of the wool business, wool - and heartache - being the only things the island seems capable of producing.
The book opens, in 1888, with Marantha's story. Will Waters, Marantha's second husband, has persuaded her that the island's climate will be good for her tuberculosis; nothing could be further from the case. Nevertheless, Will drags Marantha, her adopted daughter Edith and their cook Ida to this new life on a remote and windswept island.
The story continues with Edith and her wretched attempts to escape from San Miguel. We then move to the 1930s. Once again, there are hard economic choices to be made and in this third and final part of the book, we meet Elise and Herbie Lester who genuinely love the place and want nothing more than to bring up a family there in peace and tranquillity.
Whilst all the characters are movingly conveyed with complete conviction and credibility, it is San Miguel which is the hero - or rather, the anti-hero - of the book. It is a formidable place realised by a formidable writer. The book is based on three real life stories.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE:
As an avid reader, I am absolutely ashamed to say that I knew nothing of T.C. Boyle's work before reading San Miguel. Indeed, so exquisitely does Mr Boyle capture the very essence of womanhood with his empathetic portrayals of his three main female protagonists, that I actually wondered whether the T and C stood for female names! (I never look at the back fly leaf until the end of a book.) This is a memorable book from a master storyteller and I couldn't recommend it more highly.