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Writing about an Island of Lost Girls

“Island of Lost Girls” by Jennifer McMohan bills itself as a mystery-thriller, and is both of these, to an extent. What I like about it though, is that it hooked me yesterday at a bookshop past, and I was up till 4 am reading it.

Not because of the story, because I thought the plot was not so hard to guess at. Ok, that’s not too good for a mystery.

But: what hooked me were the characters, each one very 3-dimensional, almost jumping off the page; the voice of the youthful narrator, which is absolutely spot on.

Then there are rabbits, Alice going down the wrong rabbit-hole, Peter the narrator’s crush, and Peter from Peter Pan, all skillfully woven in and superbly written.

The most fascinating part: the literary story underneath the mystery, the story of messed-up relationships, mangled childhoods, the disillusionments of adult life, and the ending that leaves you feeling satisfied despite giving a sort of cold comfort.

The narrator’s lifelong obsession comes to nothing, her current infatuation follows a rather ironic trajectory. Old secrets come undone, yet remain.

I would love to read a literary novel by this talented author, who hooked me , and had me flopping and writhing at the line, unable to sleep till dawn. Good stuff.

Last night’s feverish reading took me back to those times when marathon reading was an almost daily affair. It is so exciting to think those delirious times might be back again.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Oh says:

    I wonder if I could stay up, reading, 'til 4 – it's worth a try given this review and really, I have no other time to read. Thanks for this!

  • bed frame says:

    For me that is a good label. I don't have anything bad to say about that. I wish that book is going to be published. I will going to read that book for sure.

  • Damyanti says:

    I dislike labels as well…but I understand that is the way the book industry works.

    I read all genres, so for me personally labels don't matter.

    Not sure this novel is literary….it has a bit of preoccupation with keeping up the mystery (which to me was quite transparent, so maybe it is not such a great mystery after all).

    I read each book for what it is worth…good, bad and indifferent are good ways to look at books for a reader…but as a writer, each type has something to teach me 🙂

  • daphne says:

    So, you wouldn't say that this one qualifies as a literary novel? Forget the labels by the publisher/bookseller/marketing dept, how about the writing?

    This is one of the reasons why I dislike labels. And why I particularly dislike the "literary fiction" label. To me these labels are totally meaningless. They exclude and they often do great damage in misleading readers. Sometimes, if the reader is not the adventurous sort, he/she might miss out on a great book just cos it happens to be in the crime, chicklit etc section. Some beautifully written books do end up labelled as various kinds of genre fiction; and some readers think that genre fiction is below them).

    The only labels I use for books are: good, bad, and indifferent.