Islands possess a strange power. They can be alienating, relaxing, haunting, beautiful, and dangerous. In Jacqueline Carey’s Miranda and Caliban, a retelling of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the unnamed island is both a magical and strange place to live. It’s the place that brings two lovers together, and it may be the place where they are torn apart for good. To celebrate the book’s release, Carey shares five of her favorite novels that are also set on islands.
Neverland is the ultimate island, stitched together by the dreams of children everywhere. No two Neverlands quite the same, yet all bearing a family resemblance. “We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more.” If you only know Peter Pan from the Disney movie or other popular culture, give yourself a treat and read the original text. The story of the boy who refuses to grow up is far more magical and nuanced and poignant than you might expect.
Lord of the Flies is a literary thought experiment, an exploration of human nature, an exercise in the usage of symbolism, a treatise on archetypes. It manages to be all of these things, while also being a powerful, compelling, and highly readable tale of a group of English schoolboys stranded by a plane crash and bereft of adult guidance struggling to survive on a deserted island. Those are some serious storytelling chops, my friends.
“Charming” isn’t a word you’d expect to use to describe a novel depicting life on the Channel Island of Guernsey under German occupation during World War II. Despite the gravity of some of the subject matter, the characters and their various individual voices exchanging an ongoing series of letters in this epistolary novel render it downright… well, charming. And I’m not generally a fan of epistolary novels!
Okay, so it’s an archipelago, not a single island, but every island has a distinctive sense of place. Long before Hogwarts, there was the School for Wizards on Roke. Ursula K. Le Guin’s tale of the young wizard Ged, whose ambition and pride leads him to commit the folly of unleashing evil in the world, is a timeless classic, and her clear and deceptively simple prose grounds it in a feeling of elemental truth.
Alas, this book appears to be out of print, but I chose to include it because it’s not only one of my favorite books set on an island, it’s one of my favorite books, period. Set on the fictional Irish island of Aranchilla, it centers on the cultural clash between the rural island farmers and the free-spirited, loose-living young tourists who invade every year. But that fails to do it justice. It’s a gorgeous, ultimately tragic tale of doomed romance, peppered with surprising moments of wry humor and keenly observed minor characters, all rendered in lucid, poetic language.
Jacqueline Carey is the author of the New York Times bestselling Kushiel’s Legacy series of historical fantasy novels, The Sundering epic fantasy duology, postmodern fables “Santa Olivia” and “Saints Astray,” and the Agent of Hel contemporary fantasy series. Carey lives in western Michigan. Read an excerpt of Miranda and Caliban. Visit the author’s page. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.