One Night on the Island by Josie Silver
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I just wanted a nice little romance to reset my brain. What I got was a weird mix of hippie crap (self-coupling my arse), commitment issues (Susie, Cleo, the kids, Mack; all suffer, none win).
Cleo, a writer for “Women Today”, writes a column about finding what she calls her “flamingo”, meaning her “soul mate”, “forever love”, you name it.
In an act of defiance – orchestrated by her editor, though – because she keeps finding (and promptly losing) sparrows instead of flamingos, Cleo goes on a trip to (brace yourselves!) “Salvation Island” to “self-couple” for a while in isolation and to ultimately “marry herself”.
By chance, fate or, more realistically, a careless mistake by the owner of the “Otter Lodge” which her magazine rented for her, hectic Londoner Cleo meets “inconvenient American” Mack who intended to recover from a painful separation from his wife in the loneliness of his ancestral island home: Mack’s grandmother used to live on Salvation Island.
Thus set up, the two first make a truce (including a chalk demarcation line and a DMZ!) and, this is a romance after all, decide to have a holiday romance, a “micro-love” as they’re going to call it.
Integrated into the “Salvation Island” society by means of knitting (Cleo) and generally being manly and drinking (Mack), both try to make peace with their lives. They’re just not very good at it, sadly.
Mack is still strongly hung up on his wife Susie. Just like Mack on “Salvation Island” with Cleo, Susie has an affair. An office affair. With her boss, Robert. Separated from Mack for a year, Susie has been with Robert for months but pretty much the minute Mack tells her about Cleo, she wants him back. Cliché? No, not at all!
Mack himself barely resists the urge to kiss Susie under a convenient mistletoe and when Susie kisses him (on Christmas Eve, of course!) the focus conveniently moves away just in time…
Complicating matters, the two have two kids to whom Mack’s entire life is devoted and for whom he’s willing to sacrifice everything – even his own happiness.
I’ve kept wanting to slap Mack, telling him that if he’s so unhappy, he can try as he might; he won’t be able to fool his kids and simply won’t be able to be the father he wants to be for them.
All the while, Cleo stays on the island, sitting in the sand (on a cushion, we don’t want an inconvenient wet arse!), marries herself (which gives her feelings of being deeply profound for reasons entirely escaping me), cries a lot, pines after Mack and talks a lot about “micro-love”.
Tragedy strikes the island, one life ending, one life beginning, Cleo finds her new self and, ultimately, during the big finale, Mack returns to suggest a thousand holiday romances for the two of them to which Cleo meltingly and enthusiastically agrees.
Thus, conveniently never fully committing to each other, they’re implied to have a thousand happily-ever-afters.
I thought I had signed up for a “romantic comedy” but what I got was a bland, half-arsed story about shallow people with commitment issues.
Is this something you’d like to read? Me neither.
Two out of five stars because… it’s not total garbage (just mostly).
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Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam