Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane — 400 pgs

U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels has just arrived on a small island in Massachusetts, home to the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Teddy and his new partner are on the island in an effort to locate a dangerous and psychotic female patient who is guilty of several murders. The woman appears to have mysteriously disappeared from the maximum security facility, and Teddy has reason to believe that she had some inside help getting loose. While traversing the island in attempt to locate the missing woman, Teddy begins to have inklings that there is more to this facility than meets the eye. He has come to suspect that the hospital is using dangerous drugs and psychosurgery on the patients and is operating outside the law in the manner of a torture camp. As Teddy makes his way further and further into the secrets of the island, he becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game with the doctors and orderlies, and everything he knows and holds dear becomes fodder for those who would like to see Teddy's mission crumble. In this work of dramatic noir, Lehane gives us a twisted and horrifying narrative, where nothing is exactly what it seems and the secrets hiding in the dark rush out to greet you in the final explosive and shocking conclusion.

After reading Sandy's fantastic and enthusiastic review of this book, and seeing some very intriguing movie trailers, I decided that I just had to try it out for myself. I'm not normally a reader of thriller and suspense novels and had yet to read anything by Lehane, but I couldn't resist this book, and I'm so glad that I gave it a go. It was time well spent!

I loved the atmosphere in this book. Lehane is a master at creating a creepy and malevolent background in which his characters wind their machinations. There was a great feeling of gloominess and darkness throughout the story, and it lent a lot of credibility to the narrative. He’s also very adept at his descriptions of place. Too often, I have trouble visualizing the settings in the books I read, even when they’re described with infinite patience. This is not the case with Shutter Island. In fact, the way that Lehane goes about calmly and methodically describing the hospital, its grounds and the island was wonderful. It bordered on simplistic, yet somehow was not simple. The fact that the description was so well done really enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

I feel that there is much in this book that I can't really talk about, for fear of giving away the crux and heart of the book's mystery. Suffice it to say that Lehane does a great job with twisting the story into a tale full of deception, secrets and the lies that people tell themselves. Though the story moves through several permutations and winds its way towards several shocking situations, it never felt convoluted and it held a great tension throughout the tale. It was a wicked tale, full of the deranged, the dangerous and the afflicted, and several of the scenes in the hospital left me feeling the chills. The journey through Teddy's investigation was chock full of unlikely scenarios that would make even the most hardened reader's hair stand on end, and as I wound my way through the narrative, I worked my way along stacking up the clues, though I was in no way prepared for the book’s final haunting scenes. When all is finally revealed, I found myself totally aghast, and appreciated what Lehane had done all the more.

One of the reasons that Teddy made such an impact on me was because, from the beginning, he was such a flawed and believable character. Lehane takes his time crafting Teddy's background and traumas, giving him not only the anger and curiosity that fuels his quest, but also the fighting spirit that enables him to crawl through even the most messy of situations. He had some great dialogue as well. Teddy never stopped with the wit and sarcasm, and often, the tension in a scene was mitigated by Teddy's droll pronouncements to those around him. I found it impossible not to react to Teddy. He was so human, filled with regret, sadness, and an unspeakable drive that propelled him ever forward. As the conclusion of the book finally made itself clear to me, I began to see that Teddy had several roles to play in this drama, and he played some much more successfully than others. I felt that Lehane was brilliant in his creation of Teddy and was completely caught off guard when I realized just what was going on in this twisted tale.

I also found the sections about the institution very interesting. Reading about mental illness in literature is one of the things that really intrigues me, and to see Ashecliffe from the point of view of both the patients and the staff was exceptionally interesting. Since the book was set in the 1940s, the mental health field was very different than it is today. At that time, talk therapy was almost unheard of and pharmaceuticals were just beginning to make it on the scene. The most typical way for the mentally afflicted to be treated during this time was the use of psychosurgery (namely the frontal lobotomy) and the use of manacles and chains to keep the patients from running wild. I found this to be very sad and it made me really think about the advancements that have been made in the treatment of mental illness since that time. Lehane takes it to the next level with the suspicions of harmful foreign drugs and the use of torture. It is said in the book that the staff at Ashecliffe “wrote their own playbook” in regards to their treatment practices. Frightening indeed.

If you’re the type of reader who wants to get lost in a fantastically dark and twisted tale full of surprises, then this is definitely the book for you. Though it was written in a simple and conversational style, the book was simply stunning. In the future, I'm going to be looking for more of Lehane’s work, and already have a copy of Mystic River on my shelf waiting for me. Looking for an unusual and dark thriller, where nothing is what it seems? Then by all means, go out and grab a copy of Shutter Island!

21 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I watched the movie twice, still didn't get it, and then had to email Sandy to find out what happened! LOL

nomadreader said...

I need to read more Lehane. I'm always stuck deciding if I want to start at the beginning and move forward with him or just randomly pick. He's an author I should read all of, I think. You've made a good case for digging in with this one!

Jennifer @ Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I've been waiting to read this one for awhile. I'm not a huge thriller reader but I do enjoy them occassionally.

Sandy Nawrot said...

This book brought me to my knees! I finished it on the elliptical, and I had to get off the thing because I was shaking. Some people felt that this type of book had been done before, but none that I had read! We read this book with book club and then went and saw the movie, which was fun.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Sadly, I saw the movie first and absolutely loved it, but I know how it ends and am worried to read the book and do a comparison between the two now. I've yet to read Lehane but since I love all of the movies made from his books (Shutter Island, Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River), that's why I purchased his most recent book when I was up in Boston a few weeks ago. It's also autographed! I need to read it right NOW.

Suko said...

I did see the movie (at home), and I remember being on the edge of my seat (on the couch)! It's a scary thriller! It sounds as if the book is worth reading and perhaps even better than the film. Excellent review!!

Literary Feline said...

I read this book years ago and really liked it. And I loved the ending. Lehane is such a good writer and really knows how to create atmosphere and characters with depth.

bermudaonion said...

Lehane can really write dark, forbidding novels, can't he? I need to catch up with his work.

Anita said...

I saw the book, but I think the book would be much better. I want to go back and read many Lehane books. I met him and heard him speak at NEIBA, and I am so much more interested in his work now!

Amy said...

I've seen the movie, but I'd still like to read this one day!

Athira said...

I loved this book and I am so glad that you did too. I watched the movie too and loved that as well. It is very rare that I enjoy both the book and the movie.

Vasilly said...

What a review! I've read Mystic River and really enjoyed the writing. Lehane is so talented. I've seen previews of Shutter Island but didn't know it was set in a mental institution in the 40s. I'll definitely pick this up when I want a scary read.

Jenners said...

You need to see the movie too … though some of the impact is lost because you know the story. It was pretty well done as I recall.

Lisa said...

This one certainly made a great movie. It sounds like I should pick it up, although I'm not sure I'd enjoy it as much as you did just because I already (well, assuming the movie is fairly accurate) know what's going to happen.

Buried In Print said...

I've yet to try his work either, but am encouraged to do so by your experience (and hearing that you're already eyeing another of his works on your shelf). I think the descriptions of the institutional "life" would be most interesting to me too. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this one!

jennysbooks said...

This sounds so fun, and maybe a good introduction to Lehane? I've never read anything of his for fear it would be too dark and creepy, but I do love a book full of suspenseful twists.

Darlene said...

I haven't read this one but I did see the movie and loved it. I think this is one I'd enjoy on audio as well.

Ti said...

The movie was pretty good cinematically, but I never read the book.

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

I read Mystic River and found it to be such a thrilling read ~ I had Shutter Island on my tbr list but forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder! I'm going to find me a copy of this one! Gives me an excuse to go to the used bookstore!

Marie said...

Eeep! I need to read this. Sounds like a great time!

Jules said...

Huh. I saw the movie trailers for the book but never gave it much thought. But your review makes me want to scoop the book up. It looks like it has a lot of elements to it I'll enjoy. Not my normal genre, but I think I'll check it out. Great review today!

Post a Comment

 
Blogger Template by Delicious Design Studio