The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave – review
The award-winning author’s second novel, set in the early 20th-century Philippines, is another beautifully told page-turner
Tue 16 May ‘17 11.00 BST
econd books are notoriously tricky beasts and the standard is set high here: Hargrave’s debut, The Girl of Ink and Stars, was that most elusive thing, a book that came from nowhere and caught fire, becoming a bestseller and winner of the Waterstones children’s book prize. Happily, this new novel confirms her as one of the most exciting emerging talents in children’s books.
This time the story is rooted in history, set in the early 20th century on Culion Island in the Philippines which was the world’s biggest leper colony. Twelve-year-old Ami was born on the island; she is disease-free but lives with her mother who is “touched”. The arrival of Mr Zamora, a sinister government official, brings the life-changing decree that all healthy children must leave the island and move to an orphanage. Banished across the sea, can Ami find her way home before her mother dies?
Hargrave has a real and rare talent for combining poetic prose with compelling, page-turning storytelling. Her writing conjures such a vivid sense of place, the lush wildness of the natural world a fitting backdrop for an adventure that requires great independence and courage. Friendships and familial bonds are all important; the fierce love between a mother and daughter is at the very heart of the novel. Themes of prejudice, difference and loss are deftly handled, and there is real emotional depth and poignancy to the story, which is at times heartbreaking but ultimately one filled with hope.
• The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave is published by Chicken House (£6.99).