Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus, 2020)
Rose Tremain says of this novel: 'it explores the primal and timeless human quest to find meaning in a life, an aspiration which engages people in wildly different ways across the globe. I chose two contrasting locations – the genteel city of Bath and the harsh island of Borneo – and unfolded in them both stories of sexual entrapment, material striving, loss of love, untimely death and – through them all – the desperate and unending search for places of consolation and solace.’ Fortunately for all readers, the telling of this story is not nearly as bleak as this would have you think. Set in the 19th century, her group of characters live in such a terrific, serious story that I doubt anyone will be able to put this down (I couldn’t!) All of Tremain’s novels concern the search for ‘home’ and this theme is brought to hugely satisfying conclusions in Islands of Mercy. I also admired the simple beauty of the look of this book; it has exceptional endpapers, and a stunning cover.