The courts fall silent, the racquets are folded away, the gates are shut and the caravanseri moves on from SW19 to the next port of call which will be the US Open. Before that reseeding is being started on the grass for the Olympics, but for now it is time to look forward to Wimbledon 2013 and for Random to get back to reviewing the odd book or two.
Last year I read a book by Emily Barr called The First Wife sent to me by those generous souls at Headline. I had never read any by this author before though she has written over ten books and was not sure what to expect. Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it, a real page turner and if you wish to see what I thought about it read my earlier review, here.
I was pretty sure that I would enjoy Stranded and found it totally gripping, far more so that I thought when I started reading it. Esther Lomax is feeling bruised and fragile after the breakdown of her marriage and feels the need to get away. Spurred on by a chance remark by somebody met at an art gallery, she sets off on a trip to Malaysia, partly to get away from everything and to give herself time to think, but also to prove to her disbelieving ex that she is more than capable of embarking on such an adventure.
At first, nervous and unsure she gradually finds her feet and takes a trip to the Perhentian Islands, which were named by her chance art gallery acquaintance "My instincts were right. This place will be exactly what I need it to be.....the sea is silenced by the rock. I have my own little verandah with a hammock on it and a small table and two white chairs, and when I stand there, I look down past the other huts to the edge of the sand. The air hangs hot around me"
Here she rests, relaxes and sleeps and later joins others on a trip to a remote island, an out of the way non-touristy trip especially organised by one of the staff at the resort. She is joined by Katy, who has befriended her, a woman of her own age also recovering from a break up, Mark and Cherry a honeymoon couple, Edward from Scotland and an Australian couple Gene and Jean who are obviously on this trip to revive their embittered relationship and who are failing to do so.
They arrive at the island "this is a perfect place, a genuine desert island.... it is small and as far as I have seen, covered in dense jungle apart from this beach. We pile off the boat onto the white beach. Everything is silent. This feels like a place that is not used to people"
Samad, their guide, lays out their lunch, realises he has left the matches behind and without them is unable to light the cooker and prepare their meal. He decides to take the boat, return to base and be back in an hour to cook lunch. They wave him off, settle down with a glass of wine or two and await his return. The hours drift by and it soon becomes apparent that he is not returning that day. Joking and cheering each other up the party eat what they can and spend the night on the beach sure he will arrive in the morning. He does not and as time passes by it is apparent he is not returning and they are stranded with no food, water or shelter.
It becomes increasingly difficult not to give matters away and let slip the outcome if I give any more details so I must be careful. Suffice it to say that there are many in the group who are hiding a secret in their lives, which eventually is discovered. Relationships are forged and then there is mistrust and jealousy. I did wonder if we were going to end up in a Lord of the Flies situation but though it seemed to be heading in that direction, they are rescued before matters get totally out of control.
The story does not end after their rescue. It seems their being stranded was not an accident, it has been planned, but why and who is behind it all? Returning home there are even more shocks in store for Esther and the book has a nail biting finish.
As with the previous book, The First Wife, there are two threads running through the narrative which, seemingly disparate, are linked. I rather thought this would be the case and made wild guesses as to who and why and was proved totally mistaken.
I had one of my wakeful nights last week and know from long experience there is no point in trying to get back to sleep, so at 4am I was up and made a cup of tea. Back to bed, light on and picked up Stranded. Read straight through and finished it by 6.30 am and then keeled over to waken at 10 am with my glasses on the end of my nose, light on and radio playing.
Terrific pin you to the end of your seat read and I loved it.