Some books take you by surprise. Some books have the capacity to shock you, and more so some books have the capacity to do the both, in equal measure. The Island of Last Truth by Flavia Company is one such book.
What is the book about? This question is a little difficult to answer. Mainly because it is almost everything rolled into one – a literary story, a mystery, a love story and a story of isolation and distress.
The book centers on a surgeon turned explorer, Dr. Matthew Prendel and how an experienced sailor’s ship was shipwrecked by a bunch of pirates five years ago. The story focuses on how that happened and why the doctor did not speak of it till he was alive. He wanted his story to be told after his death and that was left to his then partner, Phoebe, who chronicles his adventures (for lack of a better word) in a book called, “The Shipwreck of Matthew Prendel”.
The novella is all about the doctor’s experiences on an island post the shipwreck and how he got to New York after five years. The anguish and solitude of being on an island with no one else to speak or interact with and at a deeper level, the dark secrets held close, unravel one by one in the book, which makes it an amazing read.
I had never heard of Flavia Company before reading this book that is also because she doesn’t write in English. I need to change that and know about writers who write in other languages, besides the famous ones. The Island of Last Truth has a tone of honesty and most of all adventure and suspense to it, and holds its roots strong at the same time in literary fiction, which I love reading.
The narrative is written in third person, as it is Matthew’s story as told to Phoebe. The writing is sharp and not a word is out of place. For instance, this excerpt from the book should give you an idea about Company’s writing:
“He hadn’t thought of it because it’s absurd. There is no boat to be seen. And faced with miles of sea, and more sea, his voice seems ridiculous. He shouts, shouts, shouts. Help. Help. He knows it’s pointless. But how many times do we do pointless things?”
The translation is perfect. I wouldn’t know how it reads in the original, but the translation is exquisitely done. In most of these books, the translator does not get the due credit, but I would like to mention the effort of Laura McGloughlin as a translator. I am sure it must not have been easy to translate a book from the Catalan.
“The Island of Last Truth” is a uniquely written book. Company has achieved a feat with this one. I had never heard of her earlier, but now I will be sure to read her other eleven books (provided they have been translated). “The Island of Last Truth” is full of surprises and shocks at almost every page. A must read.